Lifestyle

Working around the astronomical price of gas

Are you starting to feel like the only reason why you work is so that you can afford to fill up your tank to get to work? If so, you may want to develop a few new strategies for coping with the ever-increasing price of gas. Here are a few suggestions.

Check out trip reduction incentive programs.

Many employers already have incentive programs in place to encourage alternatives to driving a car to work. For example, Ridolfi Inc., an environmental consulting and civil engineering firm, pays for all employee public transportation expenses. In addition, they have incorporated Zip Car (formerly Flex Car) into their company fleet. Principals Callie and Bruno Ridolfi are those rare employers who actually practice what they preach, frequently commuting by bike from Mercer Island to their Seattle office.

Check with the security or human resources departments of your company to find out more about carpools, vanpools, Flex Car programs and public transportation vouchers. Many larger companies are mandated by their local governments to reduce cars on their campuses. If you work for a smaller employer and there isn’t an incentive program in place, consider volunteering to organize a task force to explore commuter trip reduction programs. For helpful resources, contact Kryss Segle, the commuter trip reduction contact at the City of Mercer Island (kryss.segle@ci.mercer-island.wa.us), or go to the Unico Commuter Inceptive Program Web site at www.u-commute.com, a partnership of King County Metro, Urban Mobility and Flex Car.

Consider telecommuting

Stephen Boehler, Founding Partner of the Mercer Island Group, a marketing management consulting firm, suggests: “The best bet for dealing with high transportation costs as an employer is to invest in your team’s flexibility. Encourage remote work. Arm your?staff with mobile devices. Encourage?commute times that avoid the rush.”

Unfortunately, not all employers are as flexible as Boehler. If your job can be done at home, put together a cost analysis in support of telecommuting one or two days a week. Studies show that employers save thousands of dollars annually in parking spaces, office real estate and absentee costs and experience an increase in productivity when employees telecommute. If the employer can see a positive impact on the bottom line, your telecommuting proposal will get a better reception.

Control what you can

If your employer is not receptive to changing, find ways outside of work to save on gas consumption. Plan errands efficiently and carpool, walk, bike or take public transportation when you can. If you are a consultant who often travels to meet clients, group client appointments based on geography and schedule them in blocks of time. Try not to leave your home office for just one meeting. This may mean occasionally rescheduling a lone appointment so that you can piggyback it on another. Most clients will appreciate your efficiency.

Get creative

Northwest folks can be a hardy and creative lot when it comes to alternate modes of transportation. When crossing I-90 during the morning commute, you can see bikers riding tandem, inline skaters, joggers, skateboarders and Sejway riders on their way to work. It wouldn’t be surprising if a few of those boaters and kayakers were headed for work as well.

Consider moving

It may sound drastic, but it makes sense. Author/publisher Diane Kinman moved back to Mercer Island after relocating two years ago to Newcastle. “Everything I was connected with — my book promotion partner, doctors, friends — was here on the Island. It was better to live here versus fighting traffic.” If you find most of your service providers are near your place of employment, moving closer to your work may be a viable option. On the other hand, if you have been thinking about a change of employment, first consider employers close to home. Even if you have to take a slight pay cut, being able to walk to work is a hedge against gas prices that will continue to soar.

Terry Pile is president of Career Advisors, providing career development, transition and outplacement services to individuals and small businesses. She is also author of “Working in Your Slippers: Is Telecommuting Right for You,” “The Virtual Office: How to Set-up a Telecommuting Program for Your Company” and “The E-manager: Managing a Remote Workforce,” published by Get to the Point Books. For more information, go to www.careeradvisorsonline.com.

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