WORKshift is Calgary regional initiative to promote, educate and accelerate the adoption of telecommuting. WORKshift works with businesses to implement telework programs for their employees.
Note: To minimize site maintenance costs, all case studies on this site are written in the past tense, even if they are ongoing as is the case with this particular program.
Calgary saw the need to address issues including transportation and congestion, public infrastructure challenges, business competitiveness, talent attraction and pollution. Even before initiation of the WORKshift program, the region had a history of interest and pioneering work in telecommuting, which can render benefits in all these areas.
The City of Calgary successfully applied for a grant through the federal EcoMobility project. The city then directed the funds to Calgary Economic Development, a distinct agency with well-established ties to the business community, to create the WORKshift program. Program success led to additional support from the business community.
Despite the many benefits that telecommuting can provide, WORKshift has had to overcome resistance on the part of some businesses. The principal barrier was the belief that if you can’t see your employees working, then they won’t be productive.
Delivering the Program
Launched in May 2009, WORKshift was a 3-year, federally funded initiative designed to create a regional template for a telework program that could be easily and readily replicated across other jurisdictions. It was the first program of its kind in Canada and was created as the result of cooperation between three levels of government (municipal, provincial and federal). The program seeked to accelerate the adoption of alternative work styles (AWS), specifically telework within the business community in Calgary.
The program’s outreach was primarily to the “C suite”—chief officers and directors—of organizations. The WORKshift Team consulted directly with businesses to help them to develop telecommuting programs customized to their specific requirements. They helped design a program, keep records, train participants, and implement the program. WORKshift also provided a web tool to track and report on the positive environmental impacts associated with telework. Tools and resources were provided free of charge on a pilot basis.(Financial Incentives, Overcoming Specific Barriers)
WORKshift embarked on a comprehensive marketing campaign to elevate the visibility of telework as a viable business strategy. Tactics included a website, print collateral, media coverage, bus advertising, a sold-out ‘Future of Work Summit’, Canada’s first Telework Week and over 100 presentations to key decision makers. They also created a world-class video highlighting the benefits of telework.
WORKshift employed a number of strategies that encouraged behavior change and retention (implementation of telecommuting program) through barrier reduction and provision of motivators. Any hindrances to implementation were minimized. The use of government funding provided the business community with specific tools and resources to enable the adoption of sought-after practices by organizations that had previously been unable to commit the time and resources. WORKshift provided hands-on consultation and tools that were easy to understand and use.
Small initial steps were encouraged, such as trial programs of limited size and scope. Cogent benefits (especially relating to increased productivity and profitability) wre described in terms that were relevant and easily understood by directors and managers. Benefits were carefully measured and clearly reported, making it easy for companies to demonstrate gains in productivity. (Pilot Testing, Building Motivation Over Time)
Social norms and loss-aversion were evoked by listing other organizations, especially competitors, which were using telecommuting. Many participants made written public commitments by adding their names to the inaugural charter, and the program touted endorsements from respected business authorities (Norm Appeals, Obtaining a Commitment).
WORKshift’s production of tangible resources (such as Teletrips telework management system, the TBL tracking and reporting mechanism and the e-Work training modules) helped remove barriers to acceptance and adoption.
Organizations were likely to maintain their new telecommuting policies because of inertia (it was easier to keep existing program in place than to change them) and because of the real and measurable benefits.
Financing the Program
WORKshift operated on funding valued at $800,000.
- Impact tracking was complicated by the fact that many participants chose not to track their results, whether or not they were actively participating in the program.
- Between the launch of the program in May 2009 and the time of writing (28 months later) about 12 organizations actively operated pilot WORKshift programs and an additional 8 organizations were in the process of adopting WORKshift. In all, about 500 individual employees were already working from home through participation in WORKshift, half of whom were tracking their trips. The 249 participants that were tracking their trips had avoided 557,895 kilometers of travel and 128,235 kg of CO2 emissions.
- At the time of writing an additional 879 employees had been assessed for working at home since January 2011. Based on the information provided in the assessments, participation by all 879 as anticipated would result in the avoidance of 63,100 trips, 1,600,087 kg of CO2 from vehicles, and an additional 692,683 kg of CO2 emissions from reduced office space (200 seats, 50,000 square feet and $1,500,000 saved). The employees themselves would have saved $228,172 and 31,550 hours of time.
- In addition, two new businesses had been established operation in the Calgary region, attracted in part by the WORKshift program.
Robyn M. Bews
Program Manager, WORKshift www.workshiftcalgary.com
Calgary Economic Development
731 - 1st Street SE
Calgary ∙ AB ∙ T2G 2G9
T 403.221.7895 | C 403.880.7132 www.calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com