Commuter-friendly workplaces

Marketwatch has an article on commuter-friendly workplaces detailing results of a study by the Department of Transportation and the EPA.

Of course, working from home is what keeps me out of the gridlock. I’ll admit that any kind of traffic really ticks me off. It’s my impatience and the fact that I could be doing something productive with that time (there’s always the Italian lessons on my iPod, I suppose).

One thing that I have tried to avoid the sense of entitlement that often comes with working for a company that has perks (or is it perqs?) that aren’t offered at many other companies. Hearing someone complain about some of these extras is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I don’t want to become one of those people. I remember what it was like being a candidate in the interview process at Microsoft and I remember what it was like to have a medical co-pay. We all make a decision every day when we get up in terms of how we feel about working at our company. Although these extra benefits aren’t the reason i work here, and I don’t think I know anyone that wouldn’t work here if they were taken away, these things add up to the kind of workplace we want to have here, where people can be focused on doing their best work. OK, now I am starting to sound like a recruiting advertisement. Sorry about that…but if I didn’t believe that stuff I wouldn’t be here.

So, back to my point. Some of the commuting options we get used to because we see them all the time. When I moved here from Chicago, I did miss taking the blue line to work. I didn’t miss the muggy underground El stop or walking in the snow (in the street sometimes) to get there. We don’t really have light rail here. But there are options for people. Obviously working from home is one of them, though it depends on the job. Even people who aren’t regular work from home people can work from home on occasion when something comes up they need to be home for. It’s pretty standard practice. Also, Microsoft pays for your bus pass. There’s a bus that runs right by my house. One of these days I am definitely going to try it. Many people will bike part-way and bus part way (there’s a bike rack on the bus which was one of those Seattle things I found unusual when I moved here). Microsoft also offers a van pool subsidy. I recently spoke with Tod Hilton, a van pooler, who explained that the van pool is a great work/life balance mechanism because when the van is leaving, the van is leaving.

There’s a transit center right next to campus so it’s pretty convenient to get off a bus and hop on a waiting shuttle to get to your building. Some of the buses have wi-fi too, I’ve been told. Some other Microsoft employees might be able to tell a little about their van pool or bus options.

My last company didn’t pay for any of my commute expenses. Not parking or train or anything. So it’s nice that Microsoft does and that there are people taking advantage of it.

Comments (7)

  1. Wine-Oh says:

    Interesting topic…

    1) I was in Chicago for the day on Tuesday. Hellish flights (which are stories for another posting. Heather you should to a post about business trips from hell. Could be a good and funny read to hear from others on this topic) But what got to me more was that it took 1 hour and 25 minutes to get downtown from Ohare. Time I could have used to meet a friend for breakfast before my meeting, if the organizers suggested the blue line to the brown line. But no they didnt. I took a $50 taxi. Traffic is horrendous in Chicago. Chicago’ans drive everywhere. I commute from NYC 25 miles to the burbs and have an easier time. No traffic snarls as of yet. I would put Chicago on the least commutable list of cities. Good restaurants but bad traffic.

    2) My company has van service for those who commute from NYC. Picks you up at the train station and brings you to the office. Vice versa. Downside is in the afternoon, theres only a 5 or 5:30 to the train station. So at that time, its a mad rush to the door.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Sheesh, even if you just took the blue line into the loop, you could have caught a taxi from there. The people driving in Chicago are from the suburbs. Trust me on that one. The only time I really drove in Chicago is when I went shopping for stuff I couldn’t carry easily. Most Chicagoans, I would guess, figure that visitors don’t want to navigate the El.

    Wish we had that van service in Chicago when I was still commuting in from the suburbs (I then moved back into the city). I was taking a bus to the train station, then a commuter train into the city and then walking a mile to my office. It was easily an hour and half each way. I remember making the mad dash for the train too. Boy that walking did me some good though.

  3. Wine-Oh says:

    Yeah I wasnt thinking for a change. The client just said take a cab down town. Yeah ok. I was in the taxi as long as I was in the air. I go to chicago 3x a year to visit friends. I always take the blue line to Bucktown and meet them there. I should have done it this time. But this  office where the meeting was, was only 1 stop on the brown line when you take the blue line to the loop. I am going next week again. I will not repeat the same mistake.

  4. Ben says:

    Reducing my commute was a key factor in the career move I just made.  I’ve had a 45+ minute commute for 8 of the 12 years in my career so far.  My ride in from Maryland to Virginia in the morning isn’t so bad, sometimes I can get there in a half-hour or less.  Coming home is another story.  When I pull out on the main road and see the Capital Beltway looking like a parking lot headed back home, I know I’m in for a tough 45-60 minute ride.

    My new job will essentially cut my commute in half.  Door-to-door without traffic, I can be there in 15-20 minutes.  But even better, I’ll be able to telecommute on occaision too.  I’ll be on a virtual team, so it will all be about where can I plug in and am I getting the work done.  That could mean my kitchen table, my bedroom, the Starbucks up the street, or whatever office space I get at my new job.

    This will be a very different work arrangement for me as it will be the first time that I won’t be a part of a on-site team, or have a cubicle or office to call my own 40+ hours a week.  But I get some of my life back, which is a very good thing.

  5. tod hilton says:

    Riding the vanpool rocks! I highly recommend it as a commuting option here in Seattle. Contact Community Transit or King County Transit if you need info.

  6. I live on Whidbey Island, and the vanpool situation out here is awesome.  There are 5 vanpools that go to downtown Seattle daily.  The best part is that you get to be first on the ferry!  I’m ready to start a Microsoft vanpool.  I noticed several Microsoft people listed on rideshareonline who do the Whidbey to Redmond commute.  If only I could get my dream technical writing job at Microsoft.  Ah, well.  Job first; vanpool second.

  7. Tim says:

    Love the post, probably because I love thinking about this subject. I miss my old carpool buddy, Amy, and unfortunately haven’t found anyone to replace her. The problem I have finding alternative transportation to work is that I have to drive two children to two different schools before coming into work. Three Fridays a month I bike from the second school, but it does seem a little on the lame side (except that I get my exercise in for the day). Congrats to Microsoft for putting up the dough for alternative transporatation.