Working from Home Is Patriotic

Broadband initiative would facilitate more remote workers

Yes, that's right—if you work from home, you're helping to ensure the safety and prosperity of your country. With gas prices in the United States continuing to climb, most of us probably don't need extra incentive to work from home. It's easy to see the financial savings and time savings from avoiding the commute. But consider also the wear on your vehicle and the reduced pollution from not driving. Working from home can be a great solution—if such an arrangement is practical in your field; for many in IT, it might not be. And supporting an army of remote workers might be a challenge admins shutter at facing.

Connected Nation, a national nonprofit organization focused on increasing broadband access and computer literacy, has released a report, The Economic Impact of Stimulating Broadband Nationally, that highlights the economic benefits of increased broadband access and the need for legislation to spur such increases. One implication of the study is that increased broadband access can lead to more people with the ability to work from home. The organization's programs in Kentucky, Ohio, and elsewhere have already shown the benefits of concerted efforts around broadband adoption. The report suggests that increasing broadband adoption nationwide by as little as 7 percent could result in an overall economic impact of $134 billion per year.

Connected Nation is focused on underserved areas. But my guess is that even where broadband access is readily available, remote working is less common than it could be. Certainly, the technology is available: Most of us have access to Web mail or IM to stay in contact with coworkers. People commonly carry mobile phones or remote computing devices—often supplied by their companies. If you've seen any of Microsoft's unified communications (UC) demos or implemented a UC solution, you know the ability to teleconference has never been better. Yet there are companies or organizations that don't let their employees work from home; for instance, my wife works for a local city government that doesn't permit remote working.

Is the traditional office space an artifact of a less technologically advanced age? That is, do some organizations keep their workers on premise just because that's what they've always done? Because they can't fathom a distributed workforce, or they don't have the technology infrastructure to support one? Or is there still value from working together in the same environment with your coworkers, something that can't be duplicated by remote conferencing?

Most of the editorial staff at Windows IT Pro works remotely at least part of the time, and a few are distance workers who work from home all the time. But, as writers and editors, there's really nothing about our jobs that ties us to the office—wherever we have computer and internet access, we can typically be just as productive. How about those of you who administer computer networks? Do you have the capability and support you need to work remotely? Or does the technology tie you to the datacenter? What trends in remote working do you see in the workforces you support? Does it give you a headache even to consider the challenges remote workers present?

If this topic interests you, you can download the full Connected Nation report from their Web site. And meanwhile, let us know what you think of the issues of broadband access and remote working by sending an email or posting a comment.

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