As everyone who works at America Online Inc. headquarters in Dulles knows, it's no easy task to run personal errands at lunch time. There's lots of fresh air, greenery and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the spacious campus, but try finding a place to get your watchband changed.
On June 22 comes AOL's answer to this problem: a company concierge, waiting to take care of employees' errands. "Anything you'd be worrying about and would have to do at lunch" is fair game, says AOL spokeswoman Kim McCreery. The aim is to be "taking the stress out of life." It's also designed, of course, to increase productivity.
Three full-time staffers will be set up in a kiosk near the company store that sells AOL and Netscape logo clothing, mugs and the like. They'll do, within reason, any errands that AOL employees ask them to do. Like making restaurant reservations, taking a car to the repair shop or shopping for a birthday present.
That's three staffers, serving 3,000 workers. First come, first served.
It's a bit of borrowing from the corporate culture of Netscape Communications Corp., which AOL acquired earlier this year. Netscape's Silicon Valley headquarters has long had a concierge service, which officials say has proved very popular with employees.
Other companies are getting into the act as well. At Mario's Building in Reston, the high-tech hothouse for companies put together by tech entrepreneurs and now landlord Mario Morino, there's one full-time concierge. "Our building is about creating an environment that meets the needs of the entrepreneurs," says David Samuels of the Morino Institute.
"We're all so busy. My dry cleaners in Arlington closes at 7 and there's no way I'll be there by 7," says Samuels.
Mary Naylor has been running Capitol Concierge in Washington since 1987; today it helps people in 76 buildings in the area choose flowers, find maids and plan vacations. "There's a personal-service explosion," she says.
Part of it is because of high-level executives taking matters into their own hands.
Julie Holdren, 30, chief executive of Internet software firm Olympus Group of Alexandria, hired a full-time "house manager" six months ago to take the after-hours stress out of her life.
Holdren was finding that she and her husband were both working 80-hour weeks and would end up doing laundry together in their rare moments alone. "I got tired of sour milk and dead houseplants," Holdren says. She says their house was a shambles and since her husband travels a lot, there was always luggage at the door.
The answer was outsourcing: "This is about surviving with our lifestyles and leading some kind of normal life."
Holdren says she loves to cook but is hardly ever home when the local grocery store is open. So her manager does it, visiting local farmers markets as well. She takes the clothes to the dry cleaner. She manages some of the household finances as well. If a household appliance goes on the blink, "she gets it fixed, she pays for it, she deals with it."
Holdren pays about a third of her own salary to the woman, who asked that her name not be used in the newspaper. "It's a great investment," she says. "We've improved our quality of life."
More than ever before, presidential candidates are wooing techies on the campaign trail.
So, at this admittedly very early juncture in the 2000 campaign, when few politicians have even announced plans to run, who does the tech crowd favor?
In an early lap around the track, the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics has found, Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R) is leading Vice President Gore in computer-industry contributions, based on results from the first presidential fund-raising period, from Jan. 1 to March 31 this year. Never mind that Gore has worked hard for years on technology issues and wants to portray himself as a pro-silicon Internet expert.
Bush received 37 percent of all computer industry contributions ($86,450), the center found, compared with Gore's 33 percent ($76,250). Former senator Bill Bradley (D) came in third, reeling in $21,425. Former Reagan domestic policy adviser Gary Bauer (R), with $16,750, beat Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain ($12,250).
But the center found that Gore was treated best by lobbyists, collecting $1.4 million from the lobbying industry, twice as much as it gave to Bush.
Bill Burrington, America Online vice president for international public policy, is headed to a nice spot abroad.
Burrington is moving to London to become senior vice president and chief communications officer for AOL Europe.
Jill Lesser, meanwhile, has been promoted to vice president for domestic public policy and will be the new head of the D.C. office.
Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at email@example.com.
CAPTION: Eighty-hour weeks drove Olympus Group CEO Julie Holdren, left, to hire a full-time "house manager" so she could lead "some kind of normal life."