What is the Telework / AWA Council? With Allie Velleca.Read DocumentGet Document
What is the Telework / AWA Council? With Allie Velleca.
What is the Telework / AWA Council? With Allie Velleca.
On this week's episode of Between the Lines, we chat with Allie Velleca. Allie is a TDM Project Manager at AECOM. She has been working in TDM for 10 years, supporting multiple projects across the United States. She is also the Chair of the Telework Council at ACT. (You may remember her from S1E9 of Between the Lines.)
And check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify!
[Voice-over] Commutifi presents Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Each week, we explore the challenging issues. Transportation demands management professionals face on their journey to transition commuters from driving alone to more sustainable, shared, and active commuting habits. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify. This is Between the Lines with Andy Keeton.
[Andy Keeton] Hi, everyone, and welcome to Between the Lines. We are joined today by our first repeat guest. You may recognize her from our telework episode way back in season one. We're joined today by Allie Velleca. Allie is a TDM project manager at AECOM. She's been working in TDM for ten years, supporting multiple projects across the US, and, most importantly for today, she is the chair of the Tower Council for the Association for Commuter Transportation or ACT. And why that's so important is because this is part of our ACT Council Spotlight Mini-Series, specifically this week on the Telework Council. Allie, thanks for joining us again.
[Allie Velleca] Thank you so much for having me. And I'm so glad to have my ACT Telework Council heard on today.
[Andy Keeton] Cool. So, tell us, what is it? What is this ACT Telework Council, and who is it for?
[Allie Velleca] Yes. So, the official name is the Telework and Alternative Work Arrangements Council, which is quite a mouthful, so we often just call it the Telework Council. But it is a group of like-minded professionals interested in not just telework, but flexible work programming that might include flex schedules, compressed work weeks, right anything that isn't a kind of employer led in creating flexibility at the work site. And yeah, so our membership, we are hovering around the 80 or 90 folks within our Telework Council. And our membership really ranges from consultants to employers to TMA representatives, to folks interested in research, folks interested in the real estate side of things. We have a very diverse membership, which, I think, is so great about the council because, really, you can join any council any time. And it doesn't matter where you are, what you do, what you work on. And so, yeah, our membership is very diverse, and it's people who are interested in these programs who might be interested in their own organization, for organizations they're supporting or just trying to stay on top of what's happening and what's changing.
[Andy Keeton] So it's for everyone in the whole world who is interested in teleworking, which maybe today is literally everyone.
[Allie Velleca] That's right.
[Andy Keeton] Or Alternative Work Arrangements. Thank you for that clarification. Let's get into a little bit… Let's pull back the 10,000-foot view. Talking about telework and alternative work arrangements, why is this whole group of ideas, this telework or alternative work arrangements, so important to the future of TDM, transportation of our management, the future of commuting? It doesn't seem like it's transportation. It's like the lack of transportation. So, why is this an important thing to be talking about?
[Allie Velleca] Well, I mean, I think at the core, so many TDM programs and efforts are around reducing traffic congestion to have a positive impact on air quality. So, I think that's why this becomes such an important strategy, because it is that zero emissions commute mode and can be such a powerful tool as it relates to traffic reduction and positive air quality impacts. So, I think that's where this piece comes into play with the TDM side of things. But I think the other thing, too, that makes it unique is that, like I said at the beginning, it's very much usually an employer-led program. So many TDM programs are obviously working with employers and organizations to create a commuting culture and to put things in place at the employer's site that helps commuting, like pretax benefits and other things that the employer can do to support how you commute to work. But you can also choose to carpool on your own without your employer supporting it. You can choose to bike to work without your employer supporting it. Most people can't just decide they're going to work from home unless there is really that employer support for it. And so, I think that's where why this becomes so important and why it has been important prior to the pandemic and then will continue to be as its own conversation because there's a lot of things we can do to impact behavior change and how people travel to work. But really, this is not possible without the support and the structure and the policy and guidance from the employer side.
[Andy Keeton] That's a good point. That's a really good point. You can't do this on your own. And this is why the ACT Council is valuable because you can help provide that context and support for employers who are looking for this. And just to do a little shameless plug here. If you want to learn more about teleworking, we did talk a lot more about this back in season one, episode nine, so you can go back in the archives and check it out. We had a great conversation. I haven't listened to it for a while, but I'm sure it's a great conversation. So, you should check out. But let's get back into the core here of this episode, which is the Council, the Telework Council, I'll call it that, even though it's got this long-running. What is the Telework Council doing? How are you planning to help transportation professionals, employers, etc, better incorporate telework practices into TDM?
[Allie Velleca] It's funny you say that about our past episode, but it was a great conversation. I did listen to it in preparation for today. And what's interesting about it, though, is that the conversation around teleworking in the workplace and in TDM has very much evolved so much from March 2020 to when we recorded that last episode, which, I think, was in June 2021 to now. And so, I think what's been interesting about the work of our Telework Council is we're trying to provide relevant information to our members quickly. And the reason I say that is because things are changing so fast that some of the things that we've created for our council may not be as helpful now, but when we put it together a year ago it was like, "This is awesome. This is exactly what people need." So, what are we doing to help support TDM? We're trying to stay on top of the data, on top of the trends of what's happening, and then making sure that we're providing good information and resources to our members as they need them. I mean, the councils are member-led, volunteer-based. So, it's not like myself or Johann who is our secretary, Johann Weber of UrbanTrans and Robin Mack of Mack Global. She is our vice-chair. It's not like the three of us sit down and we're like, "What do we personally want to accomplish this year?" It's like, "What do our members want and need, and how can we leverage the folks within the council or external to help deliver these things back to the members?" So, I'll give you two quick examples of things that we've done for our members that, I think, are a good illustration of how we're supporting what folks need. We hosted a hoteling showcase in 2021, and so as people were starting to think about this hybrid return to office, a big piece of that is, at the time, was what is this software? How does it work if we want to be in the office a couple of days a week but not have assigned desks? There was also this idea of if you needed to declare before you went into the office, like that, "I don't have any symptoms." Or is there a way to track if desks have been sanitized in between users, all those things. And so, these hoteling software companies that exist have all of those things in place. They were operating prior to the pandemic, too, so there was a lot of good resources about the technology out there. And so, we hosted a showcase. We emailed a whole bunch of hoteling software companies and said, "Hey, would you be willing to come demo your product to our members?" And so, we hosted that webinar, which is available for any active member on our website. And then also, if you don't want to sit through the video, UrbanTrans and Johann's team worked on creating a document that took that webinar and put it into a PDF that's a bit more digestible if you didn't have time to sit and listen. So, it was like people were asking about hoteling, what can we do? Let's pull together these vendors, and then we share some information back to our members. A similar thing was happening too, which I also think of how quickly times have changed. And people were… All these organizations were coming out and defining what hybrid company they were going to be. And I think companies are still doing that, but it's a lot less. So, are we remote first? Are we office first? Are we office friendly? There were all these terms that folks were using. So, we created a resource document for our members defining what those different hybrid strategies may be, where you as an organization might figure out where you fall on that spectrum, and then what kinds of programs and policies supporting hybrid work were companies implementing. So, I think it can commute with enterprise. I hopefully… It's okay, I use their name. But I think at one point during the pandemic, they were doing like no meeting Fridays. And maybe it wasn't every Friday, maybe it was once a month, and honestly, it could have just been a team of folks. Like a strategy to say, "Hey, we're spending a lot of time on Zoom in the hybrid in the telework environment. We're experiencing the fatigue of performing on camera. Why don't we encourage meetings to happen Monday through Thursday this week so that on Friday people can have that uninterrupted face time to work on the things that they need to work on." So, that's just two examples of how we have been creating resources and things that our members could use that would be helpful. And it's all really based on conversations. We meet quarterly, and our members ask questions, "Hey, is anybody doing this? Have you heard of this?" And then as you start to build consensus around, people having those same questions or being interested in those same things, then that's when Johann, Robin, and I put our heads together, find members who are interested in helping us and then working with the ACT team to create these webinars or documents or things that would be helpful for members.
[Andy Keeton] Wow. That's amazing. There's so much there. I love the Friday's no meetings idea. We don't have a formal policy at Commutifi for that, but at the beginning of the year, we also were like, "Hey, we are too many meetings all the time, and it's too hard to get work done. So, like a few people, at the counter, we're just like, "We're not doing meetings on Friday." And now like it has become informal, but everyone does it kind of thing. And it's great… And it's good to hear from other companies that are doing something similar and can provide that context. So, you've said… That was a lot. That was awesome. I feel like in that, you've pretty much explained why someone should join. But let's get the pitch. Why should someone join the Telework/Alternative Work Arrangements Council? Or if they're listening in, they're not even an ACT member. I'll throw this out at you. Why should they join ACT, and then the Telework Council.
[Allie Velleca] I mean, I think it is a fair assumption to say that the concept of telework is not going away. I also think it's funny that we are calling it hybrid now because when people work from home one or two days a week prior to the pandemic, they were working in hybrid work schedule, but now it's hybrid. So hybrid and telework are not going away. And I think the pandemic has taught us that it's not always as simple as here's a laptop, go and work from home. And so, I think we are constantly in this space of programs evolving and changing and the resources that employers need. The technology is constantly changing, I think, because we are not in a status quo environment, that there is so much change in this space that joining ACT to get a sense of how things are changing in transportation in general can be really helpful, but then getting access to people who really have the ear to the ground on what's changing with technology and hybrid and telework can be just such an invaluable resource, and really just connecting with the people too. I mean, I think it's great to have access to resources and things, but I think you also start to develop a rapport with people that you would otherwise have never potentially interacted with before. And then you can really start to build those additional relationships with people in something that are interested in what you're doing. I've always thought that that was one of the greatest values of ACT. We would have never connected, Andy, if it wasn't for ACT. I've developed a really great rapport with Veronica Jarvis, and I… It was all because she was coming to Telework Council meetings and would send me messages asking me questions directly or following up with an email. And it's those little things that then start to expand your personal and your professional people, your people. So, I think that's one of the greatest things: the resources and the information and all of that, but I think really building your professional network has been really invaluable too in a time where how things are changing is so quickly and so different. Like how companies in Atlanta are responding is different from how companies in the State of Washington are responding, and in Texas and in the Northeast. And so, we're being able to bring all that information together through the council is also very valuable. That was a long…
[Andy Keeton] Well said. That was a good answer, though, as well said. It's true. I wouldn't have met you. I loved the Veronica Jarvis' namedrop. If you don't know who Veronica Jarvis is, there's a reason in itself to join ACT and the Telework Council. Okay. So, this is the last question. This is a fun one. We normally ask how this is going to save the planet, but I want to take a little different spin during this spotlight mini-series on the ACT council. So, I want to just have you take out your crystal ball. Tell me, what is the future of Telework alternative work? Where is this going to be in five years? 10 years? I don't know, sometime down the line.
[Allie Velleca] Andy, I have no idea, but what I think I said before is still true. I think it doesn't go away. I think very much like the kind of ebb and flow of coworking spaces. Right. I think those were like very popular many, many years ago and they've come back up, right? Same thing with parting your hair in the middle. Can you wear skinny jeans anymore? I kind of feel like the popularity of Telework and Hybrid Work will probably ebb and flow, but I don't think it ever goes away. You know, I think there's a lot of things that have impacted work for many years, right? For all the years that we've been working, I've done a lot of kind of researching and diving into what in history has impacted how we've worked. And I think the pandemic and this height of remote work will have a lasting impact. I don't know how much that ends up being. I think we're still in that space of we're going to be hybrid for a few, one or two days a week. We're going to come in… now we're starting to hear, maybe people are coming in a little more often than they wanted. I don't know what's going to happen. That's too much pressure for me to answer that question, but I don't think it goes away. And if anything, I don't know. Maybe when we're all in our autonomous we're all just working in cars with people we don't know. I don't know. I have no idea, but I don't think it goes away. I think it will continue to be important. It will be a workplace strategy and people will continue to want to have the flexibility of the workplace because I do really think that that is hopefully the future that work is not something that we do. It kind of becomes incorporated in our life so that we have that balance of being able to be a parent, a coach, a friend someone interested in something outside of their work, but also their work and kind of being able to make it all happen.
[Andy Keeton] That's a good answer. I'll say I didn't have it on my bingo card that you would bring up skinny jeans and middle parts in relation to Telework. I did not expect that in this episode, but it makes a lot of sense. It's true. My sister just got bangs, and I was like, wow, bangs. I haven't seen those in a long time. Wow! Telework, I guess, is like a new trend. Yeah, we'll see. But I agree the ebb and flow it's always going to be around. I love the idea. Providing, just fostering a better work-life balance, and it makes a lot of sense.
[Allie Velleca] Yeah.
[Andy Keeton] Good answer. Honestly, a good answer. And you covered your bases. So we can't come back in five to 10 years and say, look, you were completely wrong.
[Allie Velleca] That's right.
[Andy Keeton] You did a good job.
[Allie Velleca] Thank you.
[Andy Keeton] Okay. So, this has been great. This has been a really good episode and that's all we have. I mean, we're keeping it short because we're putting these together with our other councils, keep coming back. We've got another… I have six more coming up with all the other councils in ACT. So you can get to know more about the employer council and the TMA council and the Vanpool council and all the others they're all going to be on. You can mark my words on that one. Thanks for being on Allie, and thanks everyone for listening. Like I always say, if you haven't yet, make sure you go to betweenthelines.io and subscribe to our email list so you can know what's coming up and get a notification when a new episode's out. And a little tip the videos are now up on Spotify. So if you're looking to watch me and Allie talk and I don't know, I don't really know what there is to look at. I got a map behind me, but if you're looking to watch us talk, you can do that on Spotify, on your phone. I did it the other day. I thought it was the coolest thing. It's the future? Along with Telework and middle parts or skinny jeans, well, not skinny jeans anymore. But definitely check it out or check us out on YouTube as well. Thanks everyone for listening. And Allie, thanks again for being on.
[Allie Velleca] Thank you so much. And shout out to Johann and Robin, it's been a pleasure serving on the Telework council with both of them.
[Andy Keeton] Awesome. All right. We'll see everyone next time.
[Voiceover] Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlists on Spotify.