Loudon County, Va., and the Telework Consortium are connecting government workers by providing them with more telecommuting options. The comprehensive approach to distributed work allows the state's fastest-growing county to minimize overall costs and provide flexibility in its operations.
Loudoun County worked with the Telework Consortium in early 2005 to pilot a video and collaboration tool that could help foster adoption of telework within the county by saving travel particularly for employees in remote locations. The pilot has since been expanded, as has the role of telework, in helping the county to address its continuity of operations plan (COOP), the lack of space for an increasing workforce, and tackle growing traffic problems. With more than 500 square miles and 92 inter-dispersed government offices, then and now, county officials needed creative strategies to connect and collaborate.
“At that time, Loudoun viewed telework as a tool for workforce retention and wanted to build a model that private businesses could follow. The Telework Consortium is helping to deploy a useful tool to support collaboration among a dispersed workforce and an important option in the standard telework tool kit for users,” said Diane O'Grady, Loudoun County telework coordinator. “While the telework program supports several purposes, Loudoun has focused on the opportunities that telework provides for continuity of operations in the event of an emergency or disaster, encouraging designated essential personnel to routinely work from home at least one day a month.”
Since 2005, pilot participants have recognized unexpected ways to use remote workforce technologies, including presenting legislative updates via video conferences during board meetings, to decrease commute times and increase work-life balance. Loudoun County's relationship with the Consortium is formally extended through June 2007.
“Solid distributed work programs aim to enhance economic development opportunities, address continuity of operations concerns in the event of a disaster, reduce road congestion and costs, increase productivity, and promote a healthy work/life balance – all significant initiatives for this community,” said William Mularie, chief executive officer of the Telework Consortium. “Loudoun is lucky to have the commitment of officials throughout the county government, including County Administrator Kirby Bowers and IT Director Gene Troxell, among others. Loudoun County, Virginia is a model government entity proving the viability and functionality of distributed work programs in the public sector.”
As a part of the turnkey agreement, Telework Consortium provides county officials with a desktop collaborative (video, audio, and data software) Internet Protocol-based environment, dedicated server hosting, application training on the collaborative software, and a customer support desk. The service requires broadband connectivity, an imperative technology mission for county execs.
“Telecommuting demands broadband, which is why it has been critically important for Loudoun County to make the expansion of high-speed Internet countywide a high priority,” said Loudoun County Supervisor Lori L. Waters (R-Broad Run). “I've always been a vocal advocate of telework so that people can spend more time with their families and less time in traffic, and I encourage all professionals to implement telework practices."