According to the brochure for the Woodbridge Telework Center, "Work is something you do, not a place you go."
That's what local residents who work in the District are starting to discover. Looking for a way to avoid the long commute into the city, workers are slowly taking advantage of the area's newest telecommuting center, on Minnieville Road in Woodbridge.
The Telework Center--with 18 workstations, two private offices and a conference room--opened June 1 and is at 65 percent capacity, said Helen Dickinson, technical support specialist at the Woodbridge center.
The two private offices were booked almost immediately, she said, one by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the other by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who helped secure federal funding for the Woodbridge center. The center is one of two in Prince William County.
According to Dickinson, who works as a manager for the office, about five to 10 people work in the center each day. Most cubicles are used by the same people, or by employees from the same agency.
The Department of Education, for example, has space reserved five days a week, and different employees come in to use it.
Other federal agencies taking advantage of the Woodbridge center include the Department of Agriculture, the Navy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Federal rates for fiscal 1999 to use the Woodbridge center vary. To use one cubicle at the center five days a week, an agency is charged $490 per month. One day per week costs $98 a month. Fiscal 2000 rates will be slightly lower.
Although the center is mainly used by federal employees, it has attracted some private sector workers--at an increased fee. A one-time, drop-in rate for one week is $250. For one day, the cost is $50, and one hour, $10.
The rate to use the Manassas Telecommuting Center is $40 weekly and $200 monthly for federal workers, and more than double that for private-sector employees. The Manassas site opened four years ago as part of the federal pilot program for telecommuting centers. It has 32 workstations and can accommodate about 100, said Darryl Dobberfuhl, program manager of telecommuting services at the site on the Lockheed Martin campus.
The center, he said, is about 40 percent utilized and could handle about 50 to 60 more workers.
Response to a recent Web site (www.wmtc.org), brochures and advertising has helped increase the number of telecommuters in Manassas, Dobberfuhl said.
There are 17 centers in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the District, including one each in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties and three in Fairfax County.
The Stafford center gets about eight to 15 workers per day for its 20 workstations, said Jennifer Alcott, program director of the Woodbridge and Fredericksburg region Telework Centers. Spotsylvania gets about 12 to 25 people for its center of 30 workstations.
About half of the workers at the Woodbridge center transferred from the Stafford site because it is closer to their homes, Dickinson said.
"We're still hoping for more [telecommuters], particularly in centers not on the I-95 corridor," Alcott said. "The others have room for plenty more telecommuters."
The Woodbridge center is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Telecommuters have secure access to the center via a magnetized key card.
Telecommuters and their bosses are finding that workers actually get more done in a Telework Center, Dickinson said. "There's less chitchatting [than at the office], and it's not like there is a cat, dog or child vying for attention," she said.
The Woodbridge center features separate cubicles--some already are decorated with pictures of children and dogs--with computers, fax machines, printers, phones and private voice mail.
Davis said there is a need for telecommuting centers. He noted that when the truck carrying explosive powder crashed at the Springfield Interchange a couple of months ago, causing the closing of parts of the Capital Beltway and Interstate 395, all centers in the area were full. He said he expects more use of the centers during the construction of the Mixing Bowl.
"It just takes a while for any new idea to take off," Alcott said. "We're right on the crest."