As the U.S. weathered a pandemic over the past year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been the nation’s constant source of guidance. But just as the organization was helping other companies safely navigate the uncertainty of the moment, it also had to do so internally.
This meant, among other things, helping employees work from home and commute safely. Much of that responsibility fell to Scott Kemp, the CDC’s Community Transportation Service Lead.
On an ordinary day, Kemp helps CDC employees get to work – no easy task for an organization with five campuses in the Atlanta area that serve a total of 12,000 employees. The arrival of the pandemic presented new problems, but Kemp had already been tackling complex commuting needs for years. His past work positioned the CDC to support employees’ needs throughout the pandemic and beyond.
A Foundation for Success
Before the pandemic, Kemp set up a commuter benefits program, leveraging federal transit subsidies to encourage the use of clean commute options, like public transit, vanpools or bicycling.
“Over the years, we’ve had large participation in this program from our Atlanta employees,” Kemp said. “Prior to the pandemic’s start, we had about 1,100 active participants.”
Kemp also went the extra mile to make transit a viable option for employees, arranging for two shuttles that bridged the gap between CDC’s main campuses and two major MARTA rail and bus stations.
“The addition of these direct routes tripled transit use among our employees,” he said.
Adjusting to New Norms
Though telework wasn’t a widespread work practice pre-COVID, the organization invested in a robust telework management system that put into action a clearly defined telework policy to help employees work remotely on occasion. This system was one of many investments that paid off when the pandemic arrived.
“By this time, the vast majority of people had been authorized to telework,” Kemp explained. “While many had an existing telework agreement in the system, we spent time getting many more employees into the system. Our IT team also worked quickly to address equipment needs for long-term use.”
While many CDC employees were able to work from home, Kemp said that a smaller group consisting of two different types of employees still needed to travel to the CDC campuses.
“Our contract security officers reported onsite to ensure each campus was secure throughout the pandemic. Our scientific experts also needed to travel to complete work that could only be done in the labs.”
For these employees, Kemp worked to keep intact some commuting benefits where possible, including transit subsidies. Kemp also partnered with Georgia Commute Options to deliver care packages with wellness essentials for these onsite workers.
Poised for a Fresh Start
The upcoming return to the office, whenever it may occur, will be something of a fresh start, and CDC employees will be free to rethink their commutes.
“I’m excited to relaunch the CDC’s vanpool program when the time comes and to make it more available and better subsidized for our employees,” Kemp said.
Other commuting benefits are also expected to resume when they’re again needed. In addition, Kemp believes telework will be a bigger part of the future of the CDC.
“If you look at how many people teleworked before the pandemic, I think that number is going to double because we’ve learned how to do it, and there are real benefits to it,” he said. “We’ve seen a reduction in stress and an increase in productivity. Managers have been convinced that work gets done when employees are remote.”
Whether individual employees opt for telework or transit benefits – or a mixture of both, Kemp is prepared to do what’s best for CDC workers’ commutes. A stress-free commute is the least they deserve after more than a year of keeping us all safe.
Leading companies and organizations are rethinking where, when and how we work for a better, more resilient future. Learn how Georgia Commute Options can help prepare you for what comes next, including telework and flexwork consulting and commuter support available at no cost to employers in the Atlanta region. Get started here.