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There's No Place Like Home for Telecommuters

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RALEIGH — Imagine spending part of the work week at the office and the rest working at home. Telecommuting is a growing trend across the country and particularly in the Triangle.

As her son Seth watches television, Burgetta Wheeler works at her computer. She is a full-time mother of two and a full-time copy editor for theNews & Observer. She is used to distractions.

"It's not really a problem for me to be among children making noise or the TV going. I'm used to that. I can function with that," Wheeler said.

Statistics show 13 million salaried Americans telecommute, and that could grow to 55 million by 2000. The practice saves companies brick and mortar, and it keeps employees from leaving.

"It allows them to really do their very best work a few days a week away from that distraction-driven, interruption-driven office setting," telecommuting consultant Gil Gordon said.

Wheeler says working three days a week at home has not had a negative effect on her career.

"I don't have to worry about people wondering whether I'm really working because there are deadlines to meet and there are consequences for not meeting them," Wheeler said.

The organization Telecommute America claims telecommuters are up to 25 percent more productive than many office workers. However, not everyone is suited to home work.

"[The right person is] somebody who is an ideal, or close to an ideal employee in the office that has proven they know the job, that they're trustworthy, and that they meet their deadlines and so on," Gordon said.

For people like Burgetta, telecommuting can mean the difference between working to get to her job and working at her job.

"If you're worth keeping they're going to try to make your life better," she said.

If you want to telecommute, you need a computer, modem, phone line and the proper software to hook up to the office. Some companies furnish all those tools plus office furniture.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Robert Meikle, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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