DC Organizations Prepare for Disruptive Metro Maintenance
Starting in June, DC commutes will be tough as Metro begins its year-long restoration plan, and associations need to develop coping mechanisms.
With the introduction of the DC Metro “SafeTrack” plan, DC area organizations will have to work with staff to maintain productivity as commutes are disrupted and extended.
In an effort to complete three years’ worth of work in one year, train service will drop and some sections will be entirely shut down for extended periods of time, a move which is expected to crowd the buses and the roads. While the Office of Personnel Management released guidance on coping with the plan, Rhea Steele, CAE, COO of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, said it amounts to “figure out what’s best for your agency”—a process associations will also have to go through.
“I think it’s on us as employers to provide as much flexibility as we can within our individual context,” said Steele, who is chair of ASAE’s National Capital Area Advisory Council and spearheading the task of finding commuting solutions for associations in the region. “Each organization needs to think through how much support they’re willing to give to their employees.”
Telecommuting will be available to staff in many offices, a relatively easy solution for organizations that already have the policies and infrastructure in place to support working from home.
However, that comes with its own set of challenges, especially for staff who may need to telecommute for weeks at a time. “That’s culture shock for an association, especially if you have employees that are never telecommuters,” Steele said. “You’re going to have to be, as an organization, especially attentive to how are you bridging and ensuring those employees are thinking about maintaining their relationships with staff and remaining in contact.”
Employers should pull research on “how do virtual teams work best, how do you ensure you’re continuing to engage with your colleagues while you’re working virtually, and how are you making sure you’re tapped into what’s going on in the organization,” she explained. In addition, managers should talk to staff about how to ensure productivity by setting up their home work space to minimize distractions.
Technology will help keep those communication lines open. Glenn Tecker, chairman and co-CEO of Tecker International LLC, said many of his clients are training staff in Skype, Google Groups, and Zoom to keep teams connected.
But telecommuting isn’t an option for organizations that don’t have the policies in place and haven’t assigned laptops to staff—or for employees who need to be in the office to fulfill their duties. In these cases, organizations can introduce core operating hours to provide flexibility around when staff commute, set up ride sharing or carpooling, or provide means to drive or use other modes of transport.
For example, 340B Health is switching its Metro-only benefits to a general travel stipend, the group said in an email to staff. Employees can use the funds for taxis, ride-sharing services, or alternative public transport like the Loudoun or Fairfax County commuter buses.
Russ Capps, CAE, of Construction Specifications Institute, said his organization likewise plans to pay for parking for affected employees.
Ultimately, the reality of the challenge won’t hit organizations until the Metro restoration begins. Employers should speak with affected staff to determine what they need and how the organization can meet those needs, Steele said. Then, a few weeks in, the organization may reevaluate its plan.
“Organizations have to figure out what the best scenario for the employee versus the organization is,” she said.