WASHINGTON - Then-Virginia Governor James S. Gilmore signed into law on May 31, 2001 a groundbreaking public-private partnership to get cars off the road in areas of the state hardest hit by traffic congestion. Nearly two years later, companies who participated in the program are finding other benefits to the programs they put in place.
“Telecommuting is an important part of Calibre’s approach to providing a balanced work-life environment for our employees,” says CEO Bill DePuy of the employee-owned government information technology and management services firm based in Alexandria, VA. “Telecommuting allows us to retain staff that otherwise would be lost to our workforce because of personal circumstances, long commute times or other constraints.”
For us, telecommuting is a workforce enabler because it allows talented members of our staff to work from home on a regular basis, thus improving morale and productivity, and helping to reduce congestion on the area’s roadways.”
Telework, or telecommuting, is the practice of using technology such as a phone, fax machine or computer and the Internet to perform some or all of one’s tasks or job functions away from the workplace, either at home or at a remote location such as a telework center.
A common misconception surrounding telework is that it makes it easier for employees to slouch on the job, but the reality is that supervisors and subordinates meet and agree on defined tasks and set goals, increasing both morale and productivity.
“Many employees have said they can’t get over how much more they get done,” says Cheryl Kaylor, IT manager and telework program coordinator for UXB International Inc., an Ashburn VA-based defense contractor. “They bring stuff home they know they’d never get around to in the office.”
In addition to increased productivity, telework can also provide companies with a useful recruiting tool. Calibre’s Director of Human Resources Anne Thomas explains, “It’s nice to point to the program and show that we are a family-friendly and quality-of-life oriented employer.” Of the implementation of her company’s telework program, Thomas says that, “If not for Telework Virginia, our Telework program might not have gone as well as it did.”
Coming up on its third year of existence, the Telework Virginia program- more commonly known as Telework!VA- allows businesses to take up to $35,000 in subsidies over two years to institute a formal telework program within their organizations. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a regional organization of 18 Washington area jurisdictions, administers the program under the auspices of the Virginia Department of Transportation. The Commonwealth of Virginia launched the program to help ease traffic on the region’s congested roads, and to attain federally mandated air quality goals set by the Clean Air Act of 1990.
In order to be eligible for a Telework Virginia incentive program, companies must have a Northern Virginia office with at least 20 employees, as well as a minimum number of employees who will participate in the telework program by telecommuting at least 8 times a month-twice a week. The telecommuters must be Virginia residents.
UXB CEO Dr. Richard Dugger explains, “The Telework Virginia program adds significant flexibility to our corporate structure and provides continuity of services during emergencies that is not available otherwise.”
Other benefits of telework can include reduced facility costs. The soft economy, for example, is leading Dugger to reduce UXB’s office overhead, which means an expansion of it’s telework program. His goal: to get about 85 percent of his employees working from home on most days.
Thomas advises employers to “take advantage of all the resources available to them”. Cooperation between management, IT departments and employees is key.
Thinking about teleworking? Kaylor has some advice for would-be teleworkers: ”You will still have to be just as productive as when you’re in the office. Try it. Make sure you and your boss have an understanding that if it doesn’t work out you can come back in to the office.”
For more information about the Telework Virginia program, visit www.teleworkva.org or call 1-800-745-RIDE.
Telework Virginia Program Participants:
UXB International Calibre
21641 Beaumeade Circle 6354 Walker Lane
Suite 301 Alexandria VA 22310
Ashburn VA 20147
Dr. Richmond Dugger, CEO Anne Thomas, Director of HR
Cheryl Kaylor, IT Manager 703-797-8590