Telecommuting debate: Pros and cons for federal workers

Jamie Forzato,

WASHINGTON – When bad weather strikes the D.C. metro area, the federal government can shut down.

But that doesn’t mean federal workers are off the hook. Many of them telecommute.

Brian McKenzie, an analyst for the U.S. Census Bureau, says more people are working from home.

“Beginning in 1990, about 3 percent of workers considered their home to be their primary workplace location and we’ve seen a gradual but consistent increase to 4.3 percent in 2011,” McKenzie tells C-SPAN. “We really do see a clear trend here.”

Robert Puentes, a Metropolitan Policy Program senior fellow for the Brookings Institution, says telecommuting is not always as productive as working in an office.

“15 years ago in this country, we thought that it was the death of distance and that it was just going to ruin cities and we didn’t see that at all,” he tells C- SPAN. “We see that people really do benefit from face-to-face conversations. Face- to-face conversations are going to be critical for many, many metropolitan jobs. There are many jobs that will require you to be face-to-face.”

Puentes says there are advantages to telecommuting, though.

“If you can get people to telecommute one day a week, that’s 20 percent of your commute that is cut down right there,” Puentes says. “Telecommuting does have a role (but) it’s not going to solve all of our problems.”

McKenzie and Puentes appeared on CSPAN’s “America by the Numbers” program.

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