Leaving the Drive Behind

Leaving the Drive Behind

by / February 22, 2008

As a child, I was fascinated by my father's commute to work. Every morning, he would leave our house, walk down the road to the rail station and catch the commuter train for his ride into New York City. Occasionally my mother would take me down to the station in the evening to meet him. Usually he returned on the local train: a string of passenger cars propelled by electric motors.

But once in a while, he caught the express, which meant he arrived on a train pulled by a massive diesel locomotive, one of those bullet-nosed behemoths with the New Haven logo on the front. In my young eyes, commuting seemed like the coolest part of working. I couldn't wait for my turn.

Years later, I got my chance when I lived in New York City and later Washington, D.C. Unfortunately my commute in both cities was by subway. No roaring diesel locomotive. No view of the world rushing by the window. Just a crowded, standing-room-only trip through dark, noisy tunnels.

Today I telework. My office as editor of Public CIO is in my home in Massachusetts. The rest of the editorial, production and design staff is based in Folsom, Calif., at our corporate headquarters. Most of my writers and columnists also work from their homes, scattered around the country.

I've been teleworking for years and I love it. But for most Americans, their commute isn't by train, subway or up the stairs to a home office. Instead, they climb into a car and drive alone on roads often congested with traffic. Decades ago, the car commute was a highly flexible, convenient way to get from home to work. But no longer. Commuting has become a productivity killer and an environmental disaster.

For these reasons and more, governments nationwide are looking at teleworking as an alternative to today's grueling commute. In this issue of Public CIO, we look at how CIOs can become part of the process to allow their workers to telework. Merrill Douglas' article, The Home Front examines reasons why teleworking is catching on, and they include some surprises. For example, teleworking not only removes the familiar commuting problems, but it can prove to be a job incentive for younger workers who expect a flexible work environment. In addition, teleworking creates a structure for keeping government operational in a pandemic or disaster, such as flood, fire or hurricane.

The article also provides some valuable strategies, currently used by CIOs around the country, for starting a teleworking program for IT workers. I think you'll find it and our other features - including our annual CIO survey - extremely informative and interesting. I hope you agree. If you do, or don't, please send me your comments: tnewcombe@govtech.com.

Tod Newcombe Contributing Editor