Photo: News | WSOC
Photo: News | WSOC

I-85 bridge collapse: Some firms let employees telecommute

Some metro Atlanta companies are encouraging employees to telecommute in the wake of the I-85 fire and bridge collapse, or encouraging workers to use MARTA.

Georgia Power has sent a company-wide email to employees who work at its headquarters in downtown Atlanta “encouraging them to work remotely” Friday because of the I-85 incident, said spokesman Craig Bell.

“Beyond tomorrow we’re going to have to wait and see,” Bell said. “The good thing is tomorrow is Friday, so it gives both the state and federal crews a chance to come up with a solution. Georgia Power will fall in line with whatever is best for the city.”

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola sent an email to its employees in Atlanta that it will have normal operations on Friday, but that those concerned should use their best judgment and contact their managers about working from home or other alternatives.

7 things to know about the fiery I-85 bridge collapse

“We anticipate that transportation may be compromised for some time,” Coca-Cola said in the note to employees, adding that MARTA may be the best option until the issue is resolved. “Park-n-rides may be full, so consider family drop-off or Lyft or Uber to get to train stations. Bus travel on Xpress and Gwinnett County Transit is likely to be delayed.”

Many passengers are already riding MARTA Friday to stay off the roads

Equifax said its headquarters in Midtown Atlanta will be open Friday, but "we are advising employees to work remotely... to avoid traffic congestion." The company plans to have more internal discussions in coming days "as more information is known in terms of expected time for repairs," according to Equifax spokeswoman Ines Gutzmer.

Emory University employees who are able to telecommute are encouraged to check with their supervisors about making those arrangements.

Atlanta-based Home Depot said department managers at its headquarters have the flexibility to make decisions “for what works best,” according to spokesman Stephen Holmes. “That may include some people teleworking,” Holmes said. “But first we need to see what the impact will be.”

Delta Air Lines also said it encourages its employees to monitor traffic reports and “use their best judgment in safely commuting to their jobs,” adding that many employees have “operation-critical roles at Hartsfield-Jackson,” according to spokesman Morgan Durrant.

Georgia-Pacific said many employees already have flex time and working remotely as an option, “and we suspect many will take advantage of that tomorrow and in the near term.”

The company said it advised employees to consider alternatives like public transportation to commute to work.

Newell Brands, which has offices in Sandy Springs, said it asks employees in these situations to “use their best judgment,” to check with local law enforcement, GDOT and local news outlets like AJC.com for the latest information.

State Farm, which has offices in Dunwoody, said its location near I-285 and 400 and MARTA allows for “multiple alternate routes for our associates to get to work,” according to spokesman Justin Tomczak. The I-85 incident “will in no way disrupt our ability to serve our customers.”

Atlanta-based Turner broadcasting sent information to its employees listing different options including working from home, public transportation and carpooling.


Alternative commuting

Companies should have contingency plans in place for unusual circumstances like this, according to chief operating officer Michael Dziak, chief operating officer for e-work.com, which does online training on virtual workplaces. 

“During the Olympic Games, community leaders did a great job of frightening people out of their cars for those eighteen days…and it worked,” Dziak said in an e-mail. “The trouble is, after the Games were over, most organizations went back to commuting as usual.” 

He said contingencies for alternative commute plans might include ensuring essential employees can access the building, notifying employees, and assuring clients and suppliers that business will continue as usual with any exceptions.

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