Wednesday, August 8, 2007

On the Road, or Not

From The Washington Post:

The House has taken a big step toward expanding the number of federal employees who could become telecommuters and work from home at least one day a week. During debate on an energy-efficiency bill, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) offered an amendment to require every federal agency to establish a telework policy. The measure would ensure that employees may telecommute "to the maximum extent possible without diminishing employee performance or agency operations."

The organization I work for went "virtual" about four years ago. Now we have staff scattered all over New England and we meet just when we need to, and in the combinations that make sense. The numbers of gallons of gas we save this way, not to mention the energy costs of maintaining a common office, could undoubtedly be calculated, and would probably (though we're small) be impressive. How much more impressive for larger companies? In this country, our hierarchical, tightly controlled workplaces haven't evolved to take advantage of our technological capabilities. Why not? If we're serious about stabilizing (or even cutting) our energy consumption, why isn't serious, broad-based telecommuting part of the answer?

(Telecommuting has other advantages as well - those that accrue to the individual, or course, but to society too. Working at home allowed me to be there when my son walked in the door from school, allowed me to be the supervisory presence that kept him and his friends out of trouble, allowed me to pick him up at school when he got sick. OK, I'll admit it, there were a few loads of laundry thrown in the washer as well, a few quick trips to the store for dinner. Did my productivity nosedive? No - because I was working at night, too, after dinner, and after my son went to bed. Surely most workplace professionals are mature enough to thrive under this sort of arrangement, yes? )

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