Teleworking: a challenge and an opportunity

Being a full-time teleworker, it's good to see that the FCC is now turning its attention to this topic as part of the broadband plan it will submit to Congress in February.

At this point, the FCC is basically looking for comments on how the industry can help it develop a teleworking plan in the event of a major disease epidemic, like a swine flu outbreak, something that the other member of the FierceTelecom Irish tenor wireline trio Dan O'Shea (also a teleworker out of Chicago) alluded to earlier this year.

Government interest in teleworking is not something new to me. When I was working as an analyst covering the public sector at Current Analysis, the Office of Personnel Management had been advocating teleworking since the late 1990s and put forth mandates that government agencies should have some kind of a teleworking program in place.   

And while some agencies have made progress, a recent OPM report said that as of April 2009, only a paltry 5 percent of the government's 1.9 million federal employees currently telework.

However, the OPM is now taking further action to close that gap.

Leveraging elements of two proposed telework bills-the Telework Improvements Act and the Telework Enhancement Act-the OPM in April announced the formation of a broad telework plan. Under its proposed plan, OPM says it will create an advisory group of telework program managers to "develop telework standards and place mandates on government agencies to submit telework policies for review."

Increasingly, the adoption of mobile devices (Blackberrys, laptops, company phones) makes this task more daunting. But I also think this presents an interesting opportunity for service providers to go beyond the pipe again to offer the ability to track devices and other security measures, which will help already strapped IT staffs perhaps better focus on how to help management improve their respective business.

And this is where I think the service providers can come in handy by making more out of their roles beyond simply providing a pipe to the home or business.

While I am not the wireless expert here, a good example of how service providers can assist enterprises keep a handle on their teleworking comrades is Verizon's Managed Mobility Solutions. In essence, the service helps government or enterprise customers manage a diverse set of devices, usage plans (not all necessarily from Verizon), and carriers.

Whether it's mobile or wireline technology, or enterprises and government entities, teleworking offers a number of benefits to employees and businesses alike. Not only will telecommuting policies attract more talented workers, but increased use of the practice will help improve the productivity of current employees by enabling them to cut commuting time.  

- Sean