With gas creeping up to $5 a gallon in Connecticut, some employers are revisiting their telecommuting policies or becoming more creative in the way that they are dealing with high gas prices. After all, in Connecticut, the main means of transportation for many is not public transportation, but a car.

The Hartford Courant reports:

A nationwide survey released last week found that 57 percent of employers offer some workplace program to ease commuting costs. The most popular: a condensed workweek of four 10-hour days, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement consultancy in Chicago. The survey of 100 human resources executives across a variety of industries also found that one in five companies organizes employee carpools, with 14 percent increasing their telecommuting options and 18 percent subsidizing the cost of public transportation.

In Connecticut, The Rideshare Co., a nonprofit van-pool network based in Windsor, reports a 40 percent increase in inquiries in the past two months. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association had 50 companies participate in its Web seminar on telecommuting last week.

I’ve previous discussed the topic of telecommuting before. Done correctly, a good telecommuting policy and practice allows employees to save time and money without sacrificing overall productivity.  The employers in the Courant story have gone so far as to offer free gas to some employees — up to $100 per month for a small employer.

Ohio Employer’s Law Blog had some additional suggestions in a post yesterday including:

  • Helping potential car poolers connect.
  • Adjusting workweeks so some employees can put in four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, or offering flex time options.
  • Accommodating, and even subsidizing, mass-transit use.

Why is this important? One column in BusinessWeek suggests that in a weak economy, treating employees well and attracting other human capital is a smart business decision. 

Whether companies can afford to do so, however, is another question.   But one thing is clear: Those companies that can afford to do so will be at a competitive advantage now, and when the economy improves as well. Using telecommuting or other creative policies to address the steep hike in gas prices will help send a message to employees that they have an employer who hears their concerns and is willing to address them. 

Not each suggestion will work for each employer, however. Employers should decide what works best for their workforce and then implement the policies in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.