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David Schmalz here, working from home today along with two of my Seaside roommates.

For almost two years it’s been an open question as to how the pandemic will disrupt working, living and commuting patterns in the U.S. While the jury is still out on the long-term impacts, it seems like remote work, even if it’s just part time, is becoming more and more the norm across the U.S. 

There are many reasons why that’s good: Theoretically, it should reduce our carbon footprint by taking more cars off the road, and those that do have to drive should have speedier commutes. Furthermore (though I honestly don’t know how one could quantify this in an accurate way), there are studies that show remote workers are more productive, if only marginally, than their in-office counterparts. Maybe it’s because those who work from home struggle to feel like they’re not supposed to be working 24/7 (guilty), or because there’s less time spent commuting and chatting around the proverbial water cooler. 

I work from home more than not, but it does have its downsides: communication with coworkers can be less efficient, and if you love your coworkers (as I do) it can alienate you from a part of your community. Heaven knows we can all use more community in these trying times. 

But the remote working trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere: an October study from analytics firm Gallup showed that, in September of 2021—as the pandemic was waning in the U.S. before surging again this winter—remote work habits remained constant from the months prior, with 25 percent of the U.S. workforce working remotely all the time, and 20 percent working remotely sometimes. 

Obviously, remote work is only an option for workers with jobs that don’t require being on-site, and so the Transportation Agency for Monterey County is reinvigorating its Go831 program, which is aimed at getting cars off streets and out of parking lots during key commuting hours. It also includes advice on how to implement, maintain and troubleshoot remote work policies. (TAMC has a toolkit on that topic on its website, as does the county.) 

Starting in February, TAMC is launching a Go831 “ambassador” academy where volunteers from a workplace, giving only two hours a month over nine months, can learn about strategies that employers can use to reduce their impact on roadways during key commute times, and/or reduce their carbon footprint (there will be one seminar, for example, on the nuances of owning and driving an electric vehicle). 

TAMC Go831 Program Coordinator Tracy Vasquez says that while the program has been around since 2017—and about 25 local businesses have participated, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and local hospitals—the best way for TAMC to scale it up from here is to get ambassadors they train in local businesses to share best practices with their company. She also hopes that, as we’re now turning a page on a new year, the spirit of renewal and revival will inspire people to volunteer to make a difference in their company and community. 

TAMC’s Go831 website will go live in mid-January, but those wanting to register to become a Go831 ambassador should email Vasquez this month at Tracy@tamcmonterey.org.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I think we should all resolve to do is drive less—this year and every year after that.

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