- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2007

Private employers are trailing the federal government in allowing workers to telecommute.

Forty-four percent of federal employees are allowed to “telework” compared with 15 percent in the private sector, according to a new survey by CDW Government Inc., a government technology provider.

Private businesses are not taking advantage of opportunities for employees to work outside the office, said CDW-G in the company’s third annual telework survey, which was released this week.

Only 33 percent of private-sector employees said they could continue to work remotely if their offices were closed because of a disaster, according to the survey.

Thirty-five percent of federal teleworkers began doing so during the past year compared with 10 percent in the private sector.

“Agencies are simply doing a better job of identifying teleworkers and supporting them appropriately,” said Andy Lausch, director of federal sales for CDW-G.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Study, the average Washington-area commuter spends 69 hours sitting in traffic each year, consuming 42 gallons of excess fuel and spending $1,169 in travel delay and excess fuel consumption.

Telecommuting not only provides financial incentives but also helps the environment, decreasing traffic and pollution in congested cities, said Robert Shea, associate director for management at the federal Office of Management and Budget.

“It allows them to maximize use of their greatest resource — their people,” he said, referring to the benefits federal agencies receive. “If people can do their jobs off-site and that makes them happier, they’ll be more productive.”

At Sprint Nextel, managers have discretion over telecommuting, though the Reston company prefers for employees to have worked there for at least six months. Their Work Anywhere program provides employees with a productivity kit, which includes items such as a cell phone, laptop and flash-drive device.

“I would say we certainly recognize the growing prominence of remote working in all companies,” he said. “Sprint always tries to offer as much flexibility to employees as possible,” spokesman Rich Pesce said.

Because eligibility policies vary among companies, however, many employees simply don’t know if they are eligible or not, said Firooz Ghanbarzadeh, director of technology services and solutions at CDW-G.

“The private sector is lagging when it comes to allowing employees to telework,” said Ken Grimsley, vice president of strategic sales for CDW-G. “Executive decision makers need to better understand the importance of having a telework program — such as ensuring the ability to operate during a storm, pandemic or other disaster,” he said.

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