Will some feds take their work home for good?

Will some feds take their work home for good?

BY WILLIAM JACKSON | GCN STAFF

The General Services Administration is packaging a number of contracts to help agencies implement telecommuting programs.

E-Connected Intelligent Remote Operations has a Web site, at www.eiro.gsa.gov, where Federal Supply Service schedule contracts can be searched for vendors offering remote computing products and services.

EIRO, launched last month at the FOSE 2001 trade show in Washington, is a response to legislation requiring agencies to develop teleworking plans. The goal of the law is to remove at least a quarter of eligible workers from the ranks of regular commuters.

A number of vendors at FOSE featured products and services designed to help workers do their jobs from home. Jerry Vessels, senior specialist for the Virtual Office Solutions package offered by Verizon Communications Inc., said there is a pent-up demand for telecommuting services in the commercial market.

Virtual Office Solutions is being offered to federal users in the Washington area through the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 2001 contract, but Vessels said response so far has been slow.

That slowness'and traffic congestion in Northern Virginia'is what prompted Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) to include the telecommuting provision in last year's Transportation Appropriations Act.

Many agencies have policies promoting telework, but Wolf's amendment requires agencies to develop telecommuting plans for 25 percent of eligible employees.

The Office of Personnel Management has asked agencies by April 2 to file lists of jobs that could be done by telecommuters. OPM and GSA will release a governmentwide review of telework policies shortly.

Users of GSA's EIRO site can search existing contracts for products and services to help agencies develop telecommuting programs.
Virtual Office Solutions offers what Verizon calls a complete managed outsource for teleworking. It includes planning, installation and management of connections for analog, digital subscriber and Integrated Services Digital Network lines.

Picturetel Corp. of Andover, Mass., a teleconferencing company, this year plans to release a software codec for the telecommuting market that will let home workers remain face to face with their managers over IP connections.

Dry run

The Health and Human Services and Treasury departments are conducting pilot programs with ClientCare, a distributed call center application that lets workers use any phone for call center operations. Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., just released version 3.0 of ClientCare.

Despite the slow pace of federal telecommuting, there is a demand for the products, said Chuck Popelka, FSS director of business development.

'Agencies are looking for these types of solutions,' he said. 'Recruitment and retention are not words used just in the private sector.'

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