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Growth in teleworking spurs more local involvement

Next week marks the third installment of the annual Telework Week promoted by a group out of Alexandria and, already, the number of workers pledging to take part is its highest yet.

Growth in teleworking spurs more local involvement

Next week marks the third installment of the annual Telework Week promoted by a group out of Alexandria and, already, the number of workers pledging to take part is its highest yet.
Mobile Work Exchange senior account executive Whitney Hewson reported on Monday that the number of pledges already exceeded 97,000 for those who plan to work from home during the week of March 4 through 8.
That is up from 71,000 pledges last year and just under 40,000 from 2010.
Her group is working with other private companies Cisco and Citrix in sponsoring the Telework week geared largely toward federal workers.
Hewson explained that about 90 percent of those participating are employed by the federal government with some participation also coming from within the states too, including Virginia.
"A lot of federal agencies are using this as a stress tests for their (information technology) systems," said Hewson, adding that the idea is to "ensure business continuity" in the case of an emergency event, like the major snow storms from two years ago.
The United States Department of Agriculture, Federal , Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are among the government agencies encouraging eligible employees to work from home.
VDOT spokesperson Joan Morris is touting the concept as a way to keep cars off the road in heavily congested Northern Virginia, which routinely is ranked as either the worst area for commuting in the country or among the top three.
She explained that if those from the outer suburbs and exurbs are driving 30 miles each way during their daily commutes, "that could mean over two hours a day, two and three hours a day, sitting in the car."
"We have the worst traffic," added Morris, who teleworks herself once per week as do some other VDOT employees.
This year, a Texas A&M Transportation Institute study ranked the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area as having the worst traffic congestion in the country.
In 2012, a separate study by the Transportation Planning Board, based on numbers provided by the Census Bureau, found that Bristow, Dale City and Woodbridge drivers faced the longest and worst commutes in the country.
Morris, however, argued that the those area are "no worse than parts of Fairfax.
"All of Northern Virginia is bad," she said, adding that the Fairfax County Parkway and portions of Interstate 95 feature "bumper to bumper traffic throughout the peak periods."
Locally in western Prince William County, those working at the VDOT field office in Gainesville are not likely to be eligible for teleworking "because they're out on the road."
There are 20 such "area headquarters" for road repair facilities maintained by VDOT throughout Northern Virginia.
When it comes to patching pot holes, "We haven't figured out a way to do that home yet," said Morris, laughing.
Instead, telework for VDOT is geared more for those in administrative positions or graphic engineers designing roads or planning documents.
"So just by teleworking one day a week, you're not sitting in that traffic, you're not adding to the pollution," said Morris. "You can be just as productive from the home office."
Hewson mentioned that a post-Telework Week report from 2012 cited 71 percent of respondents saying they "accomplished more" while teleworking than they typically do at their offices, adding an extra two hours of actually working to their days.
"We're looking to really get people off the road and have people work from home and see what they can say," said Hewson.
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