Teleworkers add up to, well, more work

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on telecommuting is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT managers.

Is providing for agency telecommuters easier said than done?

Many rank-and-file IT managers in a GCN telephone survey reported that to be the case. Just providing technical support makes it a brave new world of challenges.

A third of the managers polled said supporting teleworkers is very difficult and another 37 percent described it as somewhat difficult.

'We can't do house calls,' said an IT supervisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Cincinnati.

Nearly half'48 percent'of the managers in the survey cited upgrading systems for telecommuters, standardizing equipment and supporting custom applications as impediments to providing merely adequate telecommuter support.

Another 42 percent fretted about ensuring the security of information handled by telecommuters.

What's more, IT folks who support teleworkers will soon likely face a heavier workload.

In 2001, Congress mandated that federal agencies must offer all eligible workers the ability to telecommute by 2004, moving toward that objective in increments of 25 percent each year.

In the survey, 54 percent of managers GCN talked with said their agency is likely to meet that goal.

Of the 43 percent who predicted that their agencies won't meet the deadline, nearly half'42 percent'identified upper-management resistance as a problem.

Some managers in the survey said that productivity can be an issue in telework.

'It's hard to keep track of work habits,' said a NASA information systems specialist in Washington.

Even some telecommuters agreed.

'I'm more productive when I'm in the office,' said an Agriculture Department network administrator in Beltsville, Md.

Only 20 percent of managers in the survey telecommute themselves. Many of those who do like it.

'I save three hours on my commuting time,' said a General Services Administration regional CIO in San Francisco who telecommutes one day a week.

A few telecommuters found a downside to working remotely.

'There's a lack of human interaction,' said a Nuclear Regulatory Commission information resources chief in Lisle, Ill.

And others said they can't, or won't, telecommute if given the opportunity.

'I need to be here for the staff,' said an Agriculture IT manager in Minneapolis.


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