Agency managers, employees find work/life balance

Agencies have different reasons for allowing employees to telework. Sometimes it's a benefit, other times it's a condition of work. For one Energy Department lab, it meant holding on to its workers when it relocated to another city.

Every day, more than 20 employees work from home or a telecenter in Livermore, Calif., instead of making the two-hour commute to the lab's new location in Berkeley, Calif.

"It is the main reason I took my job," said Joe Burrescia, who helps maintain and upgrade the DOE's high-speed network called the Energy Sciences Network (ESNet), which connects federal contractors, universities, research centers and more than four dozen Energy laboratories nationwide so that researchers can collaborate on projects and run computational experiments. "It has eliminated hours of commuting and given me more hours a day to be productive."

Burrescia works three days a week from home. "It's a big carrot to dangle in front of someone," he said. "Telling someone they don't have to commute more than two hours a day can be very enticing."

For security reasons, telecommuters are directly linked to ESNet, DOE employees cannot work on classified information outside the office or enter passwords in public view. DOE picked up the bill for PCs, Integrated Services Digital Network or Digital Subscriber Lines for its teleworkers.

Trust between a supervisor and an employee is essential for telecommuting to work, said Lisa Erspamer, resource manager for ESNet, who lives about 50 miles from the central office. And battling traffic congestion on the Northern California interstates made her feel more disconnected from her co-workers than not seeing them in the office every day.

Erspamer directly manages the telecenter in Livermore and supervises DOE's other West Coast telecenters. She also monitors the connections between the telecenters and ESNet.

"I'm more accessible now because people always know where I am, and I'm only a phone call away," she said. "The issues that have come up are the same ones I would have had if I was working across the hall."

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