(CBS SF) – The Bay Area Air Quality Management District along with Santa Clara County asked Bay Area employers to sign the “Cut the Commute Pledge” that extends teleworking for employees and maintains air quality progress after shelter-in-place orders are eased.

Employers who sign the pledge would commit to extend teleworking by at least 25 percent of employees if their work allows it. Employers would also vow to include a formal work-from-home policy as part of the employee benefits package in attempt to improve both the air quality and quality of life for Bay Area residents.

In the first seven weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bay Area saw a 32 percent reduction to CO2 emissions. This is in large part due to the significant decrease in vehicle traffic, as transportation is the top source of air pollution in the region.

“The pandemic has shown us that remote work is possible and productive for many while offering an alternative to traffic gridlock and mega commutes – leading to open roads, healthier air and happier employees,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the BAAQMD.

The reduction in traffic congestion has also led to safer roads.

From early March until the first week of May, Bay Area injury crashes declined by 63 percent, according to Joint Venture Silicon Valley.

“Even after the pandemic of coronavirus, it doesn’t have to be business as usual, especially in terms of how we work and how often we get in our cars,” said Cindy Chavez, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. “Without the congestion on the freeways and bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can see the surroundings of our mountains, we see more animals, we see more opportunities to engage with our families. The air is fresh, and our eyes and our lungs are not burning.”

Benefits of cutting the commute also include cost savings for employers and employees, improved employee recruitment and retention, improved work-life balance as well as the increased ability to adjust business as part of a disaster recovery or emergency plan, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Santa Clara County signed onto the pledge promising to allow 22,000 employees countywide to work from home and encourage all departments to look at ways to support telecommuting as much as possible.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group was one of the groups to help develop and sign on to the pledge to increase telecommuting.

“The silver lining in this pandemic is cleaner skies and clearer roadways and we don’t want to lose that as treatments and cures are discovered for COVID,” said President of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Carl Guardino.

Other companies that signed the pledge include the San Jose Water Company and Flipboard, a news aggregator that employs about 100 people in the Bay Area. Employers can sign the pledge at www.sparetheair.org.

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