The biggest news out of the historic back-to-back snow storms this winter season is not the shortage of
snow shovels or the Open Government initiatives deadlines, but rather how
telework has become mainstream.
As a long time Washington DC professional, I remember numerous snow storms over the last twenty years that
have closed schools and the federal government, and telework was not even an option let alone a concept to consider. Then as the traffic congestion continued to escalate, telecommuting started creeping into the corporate vernacular as a way of easing commute congestion and a vital offering for very talented
professionals an option to maintain the work life option.
Fast forward to 2008-2009 and telework started coming into the federal mainstream especially with the
unpredictability of weather and other disaster that can affect Washington DC area workers get into their workplaces.
Why has this all come about?
A multi channel evolution needed to take place before telework could become a viable option:
- Management comfort level
- People better managing themselves
With so many large telecom companies in the area as well as fiber optics, technology was not necessarily
the limiting factor for telework. Security will continue to be a challenge but at least the technology foundation is in place to make the networks more secure.
Management comfort level
Management comfort level has been one major limiting factor. Eons ago at a former workplace, we were
unveiling telework as option while the building was being remodeled. Managers had to be nominated and then they had to apply to be considered to telework. After applying, senior managers then reviewed and only selected 25% of those who had applied to telework. No productivity was lost on the part of those teleworking but their managers did spend countless hours reassuring the senior management that work was being accomplished. Now with the federal government bringing telework into the mainstream to handle issues such as BRAC and
disaster response for the flu pandemic or snow storms, managers are becoming more comfortable with telework. Or there are just more support groups for them.
The good news
More importantly, the final aspect is people learning to better manage themselves and their tasks.
Unfortunately it has taken the two income households, BlackBerrys and Web 2.0
to bring this about. How? Life used to be about set schedules, set responsibilities and one set of technology. That is now all gone! With the advent of web 2.0 we can work at anytime, with anyone, anywhere. The good news about this is we are also learning to collaborate using online documents and provide a better work environment outside the normal office.
What are your thoughts on this subject? I have appreciated the other discussions on telework as well and would love the opportunity to continue this discussion with members
of our community.