As Traffic Worsens, Companies Highlight Work From Home Options

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - With school starting, rush hour is back. But some companies are trying to make it easier on their employees, at times letting them skip the car ride altogether.

Dell employee JJ Light says he doesn't mind going to the office.

"It's getting to work with my fellow coworkers, bouncing ideas off each other," he said.

But he loves that 1-to-2 days a week he can also stay home, working from a makeshift office he set up in his garage. 

"I really love that work-life balance," he said.

The time at home gives him the ability to better care for his dogs Jack and Tanner. For parents, it's a way to take a sick child to the doctor or simply get them to regular appointments. 

Light says he's got everything he needs to do as much work as he would in the office.

"If I need to print anything, fax anything, copy we have the full set-up here," he showed his at-home office to NewsChannel 5. 

Light is just one example of a larger shift in the tech world and in companies around Nashville, emphasizing flexible work options for employees. Those taking part hope it makes them more competitive as a company while hiring new employees.

Dell is currently on a large hiring spree with 150 open positions in the Nashville office. Managers say they know flexibility is a key component to helping fill those spots.

"We gotta attract the best talent and part of attracting the best talent is having flexible work solutions for our individuals," said Dell VP of Sales Strategy Heather Schaack.

They say working from home isn't just good for people's happiness, it can actually increase productivity thanks to a major factor. 

You've possibly guessed it: traffic.

"If they [managers] see that there's going to be a three-hour backup on the interstate, it's much more productive for us to say 'hey everybody stay at home for work today' that way you can log in and just get to work," Light, who was recently promoted to supervisor, explained.

Avoiding rush hour is a big perk in a growing city.

"It's one of the top reasons (I like to stay home)," Light laughed.

Private businesses like Dell are helping lead the way around the back-up.

But the public sector is paying attention. Currently Metro's Information Technology Services employees work a staggered shift, and 20 percent of them work from home one day a week.

Metro Public Health Department employees also have flex and telecommuting policies they can take advantage of. 

Mayor David Briley said non-traditional hours will become a growing option for Metro employees, as long as it's possible to do the work.

"It's hard to have someone from the Parks Department working from home or from Public Works, but we can have them working earlier or later," he said in an interview last month.

With the traffic problem only getting worse, more and more companies are re-defining what it means to go to work.

"It's not a place, it's a mindset and where you want to do it," Dell's VP Schaack said.

Schaack says 58 percent of Dell employees have flexible work options, which could be anything from working from home some days to a compressed schedule. An average Dell employee works from home almost 10 times per month.

If you want to apply for one of the open positions, visit Dell's recruiting website.

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