BART Strike Presents a Learning Opportunity for Business

    10/18/2013 - Update: This post was written on July 2, 2013.  After a 4 and a half day walkout and a 60 day cooling-off period ordered by California Governor Jerry Brown, the two sides are yet again at an impasse and the trains are shutdown. Frustrated Bay-area commuters are scrambling for options.

    The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strike has entered its second day with no additional negotiations scheduled, causing major headaches for San Francisco area commuters.    Bay Area Rapid Transit is a system serving the San Francisco Bay Area. The heavy-rail public transit and subway system connects San Francisco with cities in the East Bay and suburbs in northern San Mateo County.  It’s estimated that about 200,000 people take approximately 400,000 trips on BART every day.

    Fiscal Impact

    Officials from the Amalgamated Transit Union and Service Employees International Union say that the major sticking points continue to be pay increases, health care benefits and pension contributions for mechanics, maintenance workers and professional staff.  At this point, officials cannot predict when the labor action will end.   A lengthy strike, in addition to being difficult on residents, could be very expensive according to the Bay Area Council, a public policy group.  They estimate that the strike could result in $73 million a day in lost productivity as employees sit in traffic or forgo coming to work altogether.


    A Good Lesson About Remote Work

    I’m reminded of a line from The Karate Kid.  At one point, Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel, “Best defense?  Don’t be there.”  According to Global Workplace Statistics, 64 million U.S. employees have a job that is compatible (at least part time) with telework.  That’s 50% of the American workforce.   While some employers may prefer to have people work in the office most of the time (Yahoo! springs to mind), the strike is a good reminder that life is unpredictable and businesses that plan ahead are at an advantage.  Now is a good time for all businesses to think about how employees can be productive from home when circumstances make it difficult or impossible to get to the office.



    Take Your Office Phone System With You

    Now that most knowledge workers have reliable, high-speed internet connections at home and many business applications are available online or through a secure connection, there are few barriers to productivity at home.  One major obstacle can be the business phone system.  Employees who are not at their desk may struggle to be responsive to clients and co-workers.  No one wants to spend the day listening to and leaving voicemail messages.  Fortunately, cloud-based business phone systems alleviate this problem by making it possible for people to connect from anywhere.  Employees can simply plug in an office phone at home and take and make calls using their business phone number.  Don’t want to spring for extra handsets, softphones turn any computer into a fully functional office phone.



    Working from a home office might not recapture all $73 million of lost productivity, but it’s certainly a better option for most companies that workers stuck on the San Mateo Bridge for hours.  Let’s hope that this labor action is resolved quickly and amicably, but let’s also use this as an opportunity to ponder how we can be prepared for the next strike, or hurricane, or blizzard, or ……

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