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Telework center to remain open

February 27, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

The Hagerstown Telework Center will remain open through April 2000, despite a published report that it had closed, said Manager Mary Bray.

Bray met with the General Services Administration this week after reading a story in Sunday's Washington Post that declared the center shut down.

It turned out that the General Services Administration gave the newspaper the wrong information. The mistake was made by a new group of people who recently took over the telecommuting project, she said.

"The confirmation of the contract renewal was reassuring. I was debating whether to send the teleworkers home or assume the article was in error. I chose the latter," Bray said.

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Located in the Elizabeth Hager Center, 14 N. Potomac St., the center is used mostly by federal employees who want to avoid long commutes to the Washington, D.C., area.

Private companies and nonprofit groups also use the center's "virtual offices" and local businesses conduct training there.

Although the Hagerstown center will remain open, it has not been as successful as backers had envisioned.

User revenues aren't able to cover the $175,000 yearly operating cost, Bray said.

On Friday, nine people were using the center, which has 32 work stations, Bray said.

Managers have been slow to accept that workers they can't see are being productive.

"That's a real human nature problem. People are still of the school that you manage by sight, not output," she said.

In other cases, workers worry about the career consequences of losing "face time" with their bosses, she said.

But Bray is optimistic about the future, which may include state government employees as well.

The Maryland General Assembly is considering several bills that would encourage state employees to telecommute.

The St. Mary's County telecommuting center, open for two years in Southern Maryland, closed this month because of lack of use.

Four people had used the center's 15 work stations on a part-time basis.

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