D.C.-area telework centers close as GSA ends funding

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

The General Services Administration is defunding more than a dozen D.C. area telework centers, forcing half to close and the rest to continue operating under a private-sector model.

The telecenters offered a workplace close to people’s homes without having to commute to their offices.

The centers cost about $3 million a year to operate. The centers had to make a decision by Monday whether or not to remain open, according to GSA.

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GSA guaranteed a certain number of users at the telecenters around the Washington region. It cost about $72 per person, said Bob Peck, commissioner of the Public Building Service, at the GreenGov Symposium in October 2010.

GSA does not own the centers. Many are run by non-profits or universities. But Peck said a lot of their business came from the federal government. Many centers were set up in the 1990s, and times and needs have changed, he said at the symposium.

According to an e-mail Monday from GSA, “Today telework has become less about where work gets done and more about how work gets done. Since then advances in technology, connectivity and culture have expanded the choices for telework beyond that of home, telework center, or office to include virtually any place at any time.”

As of Monday, the telework centers that will close are:

  • Bowie State University in Bowie, Md.
  • Fredericksburg, Va.
  • Laurel Lakes in Laurel, Md.
  • Prince Frederick, Md.
  • Waldorf, Md.
  • Kearneysville, W.V.
  • Winchester, Va.

Telework centers that will continue to operate are:

  • Manassas, Va. – continuing on George Mason University
  • Manassas Campus Fairfax, Va. – continuing in GMU space
  • Hagerstown, Md. – continuing at a different location
  • Frederick, Md.
  • Stafford, Va. – run by George Mason University
  • Woodbridge, Va. – run by George Mason University

The College of Southern Maryland operates three of the centers that are closing – in Laurel, Prince Frederick and Waldorf – serving a total of 77 teleworkers who worked for federal agencies and two private businesses. GSA is ending CSM’s funding of the centers on March 31.

“The college is extremely disappointed as we have had a longtime association – since 1993 – of partnering with the GSA to provide this valuable service and convenience to our residents and telecommuting members of our community,” said CSM President Dr. Bradley Gottfried in a statement.

Teleworkers’ use of the southern Maryland centers spanned from a couple days a month to full-time use.

“This is a difficult time for our teleworkers and our staff who have developed strong relationships through the years. The teleworkers have benefited tremendously from the convenience of working closer to home, and we regret no longer being able to continue these options for the residents of Southern Maryland,” said Jill Wathen, director of the Southern Maryland Telecommuting Centers.

The recently passed Telework Enhancement Act expands telework opportunities for federal employees. But the legislation did not provide funding for telework centers.

The act encourages feds to work from home. Currently, about 5 percent of the federal workforce teleworks on some level and the goal is to increase that number.

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