Navigating the new norm

TMA Bucks available to aid businesses in telecommuting, predicts work-from-home flexibility post-pandemic

Looking ahead: TMA Bucks executive director Steve Noll said telecommuting could become more popular when businesses begin reopening their doors. Studies show employees are more productive at home, and with fewer cars on the road, air quality is improved. Source: TMA Bucks

For anyone still struggling to understand the intricacies of Zoom, conference calls and other new norms of work-from-home life, never fear – TMA Bucks is here.

Executive director Steve Noll described the nonprofit transportation management organization as a “telecommuting therapist,” with staff available daily to aid locals as they continue to navigate their unconventional office.

According to Noll, telecommuting is something TMA Bucks has promoted since its inception, though the concept had its challenges before the days of advanced cloud-based technology.

“In 2003, it took a considerable amount of effort. You had to set things up, you had to have the right equipment, you had to have a certain connection to make sure everything was secure,” he said. “Now, it’s right in front of you.”

Telecommuting goes hand-in-hand with TMA Bucks’ mission to improve traffic congestion and air quality. Since stay-at-home orders were implemented, with fewer commuters on the road, this goal has been accomplished.

In Noll’s opinion, this positive impact on the environment can remain intact when life eventually returns to normal. Rush hour on 95 doesn’t have to incite a sense of doom. This is doable if a portion of the population keeps working from home, which is something Noll said could likely happen.

“A lot of people have been forced to see that it works, forced to see what can be done without being in the office,” he said. “Employers have preconceived notions. Can I trust my employees? Will they be as productive at home as they are in the office?”

Studies have shown that they are. Additionally, Noll said they’re less frustrated by commuting and take fewer sick days.

“They’re not wandering into the office after dealing with a white knuckle 30-minute commute, and people are still getting work done,” he explained. “People by nature are resistant to change. Change scares people. So, since the beginning of time, your employees come to a centralized workplace. They’re there, you can see them working. You can talk to them when you need them. That’s what people are comfortable with.”

Still, slacking off can take place at home or in the office, whether it’s watching television all day on the couch or texting for hours at a desk. In the same breath, a diligent employee will work hard regardless of the setting. Proof of a productive day is always evident in an employee’s work product.

“Have we really infantilized the workplace that much that you can’t trust adults to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing? We’re treating professionals like babies,” Noll said. “At the end of the day, what’s really been accomplished? If you don’t have to be in the office, then why be? You went to a different location to do exactly what you can do at home.”

The belief of Noll is that this “old school” thinking will dramatically shift once businesses begin reopening their doors, with employers granting more flexibility to telecommute.

“People are being forced to try this out, and they’re realizing it’s not as bad as they thought it was,” he said. “But this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Maybe someone will work from home once a week. It still keeps the roadway that much clearer for someone that does have to be on-site, or does choose to go to a physical office, even if they don’t necessarily have to.”

Noll said he understands the technology can be intimidating for many individuals, but an old dog is capable of learning new tricks.

“It’s a matter of increasing your comfort level, and the vast majority of people will experience it and realize, ‘Hey, where have you been all my life?,’ ” he said. “You can do this. Try it and relax. The thing people need to realize is to just stick with it for a little while. Don’t let yourself go too crazy and eventually, you’ll fall into a new routine.”

TMA Bucks staff members are available by phone and email to help organizations implement telecommuting policies and make the most out of the experience.

“We’d like to work with businesses to continue this momentum,” Noll said. “I’m not taking an ‘I told you so’ angle on this, as much of a, ‘If you’re ready to try it now, we’re still here.’”

Visit tmabucks.com/contact for information.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com