Governor: Stay home and work

By Diane Wagner

Commuters stuck on Interstate 75 wishing they could just stay home, take heart. Gov. Sonny Perdue is on your side.

Perdue recently added a telework initiative to his package of fixes for metro Atlanta's transportation woes. He called for the state's nearly 90,000 employees?those who can, anyway?to start working from home one or more days a week.

"The "Work Away" program will reduce traffic and increase productivity, while defining the state as a model for high-tech business practices," Perdue said.

Stockbridge resident Larry Booth heads the Information Technology Department at Clayton College & State University. Booth said many Clayton State faculty and staff members telecommute when possible.

"I do quite a bit of work from home and I love it," he said. "I am able to keep in touch with my students and faculty from almost any location?even when I'm on vacation."

Although the ability to work on "vacation" may not be an incentive for some, Booth said the set-up offers more advantages than merely relief from traffic.

"Faculty members do a lot of collaborative work online," he said. "Not just with CCSU faculty but with faculty from around the country and, in some cases, the world. We even attend online conferences."

It does take a special type of person to be an effective teleworker, however, according to James Carroll of JellyBrain Software.

"If the person needs to have someone watching them to stay on track, they're certainly not a teleworking candidate," Carroll said. It also helps to have a flexible work schedule. I'm frequently in my office as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 1 a.m."

The Henry County resident and his partner, who lives in Lovejoy, work from their homes and communicate via e-mail, cell phones and the company Web site. The system eliminates a lot of overhead, including the need for a central office.

"My office isn't even limited to my home," Carroll said. "With a laptop computer, Palm handheld and a cell phone, I can be working anywhere?even in Piedmont Park."

The state Clean Air Campaign counts teleworking as an important option for improving metro Atlanta's air quality, and quality of life. Information on the organization's Web site, www.cleanaircampaign.com, includes a home-office checklist and a primer on explaining to your boss how the move could benefit you both.

Perdue is the keynote speaker for the organization's annual PACE Awards luncheon on Oct. 2 to recognize such innovative solutions to the area's traffic woes.

"I commend the hundreds of metro Atlanta employers who are making a difference by improving air quality and reducing traffic congestion," Perdue said. "The PACE Awards provides an opportunity to reward those whose excellent commute options programs improve not only their employees' lives but the region for all of us."

Clayton State won a PACE Award in 2000 for its teleworking program. John Shiffert, director of university relations, said the school's initiative dates back to 1998 and its former president, Rick Skinner.

"It originally came about in conjunction with our Information Technology Project, wherein all faculty and students have access to a notebook computer," he said.

The university had to overcome a number of challenges, including the lack of public transportation, the availability of free and convenient parking and the absence of a budget to promote the Clean Air Campaign, Shiffert said.