California’s Bay Area offers progressive new employee programs to encourage sustainable commuting

The San Francisco Bay Area is stepping up efforts to encourage collaborations between employers and employees to reimagine how the workforce commutes.

A new commuter benefit — telework — recently was adopted for Bay Area businesses with 50 or more full-time employees.

The new policy allows telework one or more days a week for all employees whose assignments can be performed remotely, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The new telework option is the fifth commuter benefit offered by the Bay Area. Others are a pre-tax benefit; employer subsidy to reduce or cover monthly transit or vanpool costs; employer-provided transit; and alternative benefit that is as effective in reducing-occupancy commute trips as the other options.

“Now is the time we can make change happen in our offices and on our roadways for the benefit of our environment and health,” said Cindy Chavez, Santa Clara County supervisor and chairperson of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s board of directors.

“As Santa Clara County ends mandated work-from-home orders under a new public health order and other Bay Area counties are soon expected to follow, we have a new telework option allowing employers with 50 or more employees to comply with the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program by allowing employees to work one or more days a week from home if their workload allows it,” she said.

In another progressive move for commuting, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a public agency that regulates most sources of air pollution, unveiled its new “Flex Your Commute” messaging program,

Flex Your Commute encourages collaborations between employers and employees to reimagine how the workforce commutes.

Studies say employees are more open to making commuting changes when they are encouraged by their employer, according to the Air District so Flex Your Commute offers messaging and tools to help motivate employees to choose alternatives to driving alone to work.

“We are now at a tipping point — transportation is the largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in the Bay Area,” said Jack Broadbent, the Air District’s executive officer. “Flexibility — where, when and how we work will help us reduce transportation-related pollution. We must eliminate driving alone to work as a first step at reducing regional air pollution and greenhouse gases.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees learned how to remain productive while working from home, resulting in reduced commuter-related air pollution and congestion.

Both the new commuter benefits telework option and the Flex Your Commute program are designed to encourage sustainable commuting options as the Bay Area continues its recovery from the pandemic and returns to the workplace.

“As more and more people return to the workplace, let’s make smart choices about how we do it,” said Alfredo Pedroza, MTC chair and Napa County supervisor. “Every one of us can do our part to reduce traffic, improve air quality and protect our climate by not driving alone.”