Feds urged to boost telework

Many American workers would gladly take a smaller paycheck to work at home, telecommuting to the office and avoiding traffic jams that turn the workday into a headache, according to a new survey.

But for that to happen, the federal government must expand broadband availability to deliver faster and better Internet services, according to the National E-Work Survey, conducted by the Positively Broadband Campaign, which is committed to encouraging broadband use for the public and private sectors. The survey polled 1,000 registered voters in April 2002.

"A significant amount of Americans see clear value in telecommuting if given the option," according to the survey, released July 18. "They see it as improving their lives, improving the quality of their work, and a significant amount of people are willing to take less salary in order to have the option to telecommute."

Broadband connectivity is important, according to the organization, because it opens the door to large-scale file-sharing, collaboration, videoconferencing and Webcasting.

So exactly where is the federal government when it comes to encouraging telecommuting? Not too far along, according to its own statistics.

At the end of last year, 4.2 percent of all federal employees — about 70,000 workers — worked at least one day a week from home or at a federally sponsored telecenter. That is nearly double the number that worked from home the year before, according to Stan Kaczmarczyk, director of the General Services Administration's Innovative Workplaces Division.

But policies vary from agency to agency. Some offices pay for a second telephone line. Others do not, according to Kaczmarczyk. Some provide laptops and other equipment, and some do not.

"Congress would like to see more federal workers telecommuting," Kaczmarczyk said.

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