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County officials look into telecommuting

Higher gas prices are fueling support for a study of telecommuting that supporters hope will turn Kitsap County into a model for the rest of the country.

Telecommuting is the concept of allowing employees to work at home a certain number of hours, connecting to the office through a high-speed public or private network.

Among the stated advantages are gas savings, reduction of traffic and the ability to spend more time with the family.

Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern, a longtime telecommuting advocate, hopes to see positive results on the telecommuting front during the next 30 or 60 days.

Along with the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, Stern is approaching 75 local businesses for their support of telecommuting.

Along the way, he’s encouraging companies to establish a telecommuting policy based on deliverables. For instance, a worker would be responsible for producing a certain number of spreadsheets or documents as part of the telecommuting agreement.

For some, the new emphasis on telework reinforces what they have known for some time.

The Kitsap County Health District’s policy has been in effect since 2004. While it’s not for everyone, it represents a default path for many employees.

“If someone needs to get away to develop written documents and needs a quiet place to do some intensive work, this is the best way to make it happen,” Health District Deputy Director Scott Daniels said of the agency’s telework policy.

This policy was recently cut and pasted into the Kitsap Regional Library system’s telework policy, which the library approved at last week’s board meeting. It carefully proscribes how much time per week (usually one day) an employee will work at home.

It outlines deliverables and must be flexible.

In some cases, the telecommuter will need to be equipped with a company-owned laptop to log onto the network, since doing otherwise can open a private machine to discovery.

“It depends on personality whether an employee is suited to telework,” said KRL IT Director Susan Whitford. “If someone wants to telework they need to ask their supervisor.”

Daniels, who himself telecommutes, said that staying home one day a week cuts exhaust by 20 percent and “has multiple benefits across the board.”?

As the idea of telecommuting gains steam it is incorporated into future strategy, Stern said.

Plans for the closure of the Hood Canal Bridge will include a telecommuting strategy for those who need to commute from one side of the bridge to the other and decrease the number of days they will need to cross.

“Kitsap County is taking the lead in telecommuting in a number of areas,” Stern said.

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