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Summary:

A recent column in the Wall Street Journal pulls together a series of reports on retrenchments in telecommuting policies: AT&T, Intel, HP, and the federal government have all pulled some employees back into the office from existing telework programs. Business consolidation, security worries, and a desire […]

A recent column in the Wall Street Journal pulls together a series of reports on retrenchments in telecommuting policies: AT&T, Intel, HP, and the federal government have all pulled some employees back into the office from existing telework programs. Business consolidation, security worries, and a desire for more face-to-face interaction all played a part in these widely-publicized losses for telecommuting.

And yet, the telecommuting landscape is not entirely bleak. Last year, 135 employers in Georgia instituted new telework programs, helping to cut down on traffic and pollution and improve the quality of life for the affected employees.

The difference? Georgia has a cutting edge tax credit program[PDF] for employers who move employees to telecommuting. Employers can get a tax credit of up to $1200 per employee for expenses incurred in setting up equipment, including computer hardware and software, internet connectivity, installation and maintenance fees. There’s a further credit for the assessments needed to determine how telecommuting can fit into a company’s operations – an up-front cost that can be a stumbling block.

In the face of economic pressures, especially with the threat of a looming recession, businesses are naturally driven to evaluate their operations strictly in terms of their own bottom line. From that point of view, the savings to society generated by telework are easy to ignore. The Georgia program recognizes these savings (employers in heavily polluted areas can get larger credits) and shares them with the employer: a fairly typical use of tax policy to influence behavior. The success and spread of such policies could do a lot to ensure a bright future for telecommuting.

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  1. Romani in Spania Sunday, March 2, 2008

    a big problem i think

  2. Michael Shear Sunday, March 2, 2008

    I have been working on the need to find more effective uses of telecommunications technologies to support remote workers and have concluded that the work from home model does not work enough of the time for enough individuals. This approach is also inappropriately seen as a viable method of supporting continuity of operations planning. This will be proven to be based upon several false assumtions. A more effective method of supporting knowledge workers remotely is the development of public-private networks of secure facilities. The predominant ‘single location model’ in use by most major organizations is a remnant from our industrial age experience. Multi-location workforce deployment will be a cornerstone for connecting our communities in the information economy. Aside from better traffic congestion mitigation, pro-active deployment from secure network facilities greatly improves emergency preparedness. The list of drivers to move beyond work from home and hotelling is growing daily. Distributed workplace must be given an oportunity to demonstrate the tremendous potential of our information and communication technologies resources.

  3. Telecommuting needs to perform (r)evolution to change that picture somewhat. Face-to-face interaction, security, and business consolidation are valid reasons for it to be adopted slowly. I for one, don’t feel good about employees working remotely. I fond out that it decreases productivity. Yes, I may be very well a bad manager but am I alone in the business world?

  4. Michael Shear Monday, March 3, 2008

    The Distributed Workplace approach ‘preserves’ the office environment. Economies of scale for a metropolitan wide network of strategically located centers will be provisioned with ‘vitual presence’ technologies. Believe me, today’s available technologies go well beyond webcams and text messaging. Communicating with empoyees on several different floors in the same building allow the logistics of proximity in team building. We have the capability to demonstrate how Properly designed, equipped and networked Work Centers can establish the same environment – instead of different floors, employees may be in different buildings. Again, economies of scale and current state of the art technologies will demonstrate the greater benefits of remote working. Our dissapointment with the results of teleworking is not a reflection on the technologies but rather our need to find more effective models. My guess is that Emil will adapt much more quickly to distributed workplace than teleworking as it exists today. Trick is, are we still willing to talk about alternative approaches and fund some pilot initiatives.

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