Mason Employees Exercise the Telework Option

Posted: June 6, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey C. Banks

For six years, Debbie Gladden, an executive secretary, drove from her home in Burke to her job in Internal Audit at George Mason.

A move to Gainesville and a commute that could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half made her rethink her quality of life.

“Although the distance was the exact same – about 20 miles – because of traffic, the commute was much longer,” says Gladden. “The drive became unbearable.”

So Gladden decided to do something about it. After researching the university’s telework policy, she went to her supervisor and laid out her case for teleworking.

“I was able to verify that I had the proper equipment at home to do my job. I filled out the paperwork and was ultimately able to secure permission.” She began telecommuting four hours a week in February.

Randy Anderson, director of network, engineering and technology in the Information Technology Unit (ITU), has similar reasons for telecommuting. When he started at Mason in 1998, it took him more than an hour each way to travel the 42 miles to work.

He has since moved closer, but with the increased traffic, it still takes an hour and sometimes longer, depending on traffic. So in 2000, Anderson approached his supervisor about telework.

“It was very easy to get started since much of my work is really location-independent,” he says.

“On a telework day I usually get up about 6 a.m. and start work by 7:30. I most often begin with reading and answering e-mail, which is pretty much the same as an on-campus day. Later, I focus on planning and paperwork and sometimes participate in meetings via conference call. I also return a lot of vendor phone calls that have come in throughout the week. Most days I’m done by 4:30 p.m.”

But Anderson acknowledges working remotely does require a little thought and planning to get maximum efficiency.

“There were no affordable options available for high-speed Internet service where I used to live,” he said. “Once I moved to an area where DSL was available, tasks that required moving a lot of data between home and the campus became much more practical.”

Anderson also uses a “softphone,” which is an application on his PC that looks and acts like a telephone. This enables him to use his laptop and headset just like an office phone. With this device, Anderson can receive calls sent to his office number anywhere in the world and can call other university numbers using five-digit dialing as if on campus.

“Telework can be a win-win for both Mason and its faculty and staff,” says Linda Harber, assistant vice president for Human Resources and Payroll (HR).

“Employees have one more tool in their toolbox to help manage the demands of work, home and the hectic Northern Virginia lifestyle. Telework reduces stress, helps retain talented people and makes an environmental contribution by reducing the number of cars on the road.”

Claudia Young, occupational health manager in HR, adds that teleworking also provides a safe means for employees faced with a serious personal health injury or illness to return to the workplace.

“It is generally accepted that the longer an employee is out of work, the harder it is for them to return,” she says. “Telework can keep an employee connected to their department and their co-workers. It can ease the department’s workload and become an important part of the recovery process.”

For those considering telework, Anderson offers this advice:

  • Learn about the technology support options that are available for teleworkers at Mason and think about the type of work you do.

  • Identify the tasks that you could do as well or better at home and try to match up tasks that involve extensive use of the phone or computers with potential solutions presented on the telework web site.
  • Work with the appropriate ITU staff to identify any required equipment or additional costs.
  • Put together a proposal and discuss it with your manager.

Gladden couldn’t agree more. “There are so many aspects of telecommuting that each person has to weigh their own feelings about it,” she says. “The bottom line is it has to be a win-win for you and the department in order to make it work.”

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