Is telecommuting answer to state woes?

Using technology to let people work from home could solve key problems plaguing states, including clogged highways and air quality deficiencies, some state leaders agreed Monday at the National Governors' Association's annual meeting in State College, Pa.

The founder of TManage Inc., a company that designs telework systems, told a panel of governors that by 2003, a third of all workers nationwide will telecommute in some form.

"The best solution for smart growth by far is telecommuting," Glenn Lovelace of TManage told the governors' Committee on Economic Develoment and Commerce. Policy-makers must start with state government employees in their move to get more people off the roads and to increase workers' quality of life, he said.

Among the possible benefits states could derive from telecommunting, according to Lovelace, are reducing air pollution, helping the New Economy, reducing juvenile crime, and helping children and families.

Plus, telecommuting would help with the ever-increasing problem of worker retention, he said. "Study after study shows employee satisfaction and productivity increase 10 to 30 percent (with telecommuting)," Lovelace said.

He complimented Arizona's telework program. In Phoenix, about 90,000 public and private workers telecommute at least one day a week.

Many governors endorsed Lovelace's ideas.

Gov. Paul Celluci of Massachusetts said his state was about to start allowing all employees in the executive branch to telecommute. Eventually, he said, the other branches would be included.

"It's obviously something we need to do not only for the convenience of the workers but for all the other reasons mentioned as well," Celluci said.

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