Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NYT Op-Ed: To Change Washington, Move Out

Today's Daily Pipeline by the Partnership for Public Service shares a fascinating Op-Ed from Mark Everson in the New York Times. The long and short of the article is that true change would come to Washington only if people actually left the city. With government being centralized in Washington, it creates a serious risk for security and continuity of operations. Plus, the region already has considerable wealth - why not spread those jobs to other parts of the country that could benefit from rejuvenation?

As you've seen from my posts here, I am interested in the impact of the four generations in the workforce and Web 2.0 on government. From this vantage point, Everson's proposal to restructure government by moving jobs outside of the Beltway is appealing for several reasons:

(1) As Boomers retire, they will most likely want to relocate to be closer to children and grandchildren or to work from more attractive locations. Surveys indicate that Boomers plan to cycle between work and leisure. They don't need to be in Washington to make an ongoing contribution. With a cell phone and laptop, they could be in Port Jervis, NY, Puerto Rico or Portugal.

(2) With their proficiency for using technology, Gen X and Millennials will work from anywhere. Why relocate to Washington when they can perform job functions right where they live? As someone who grew up in towns with populations under 1,000 people in Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa, I am sensitive to the fact that communities across the U.S. have experienced a "brain drain" as people like me and my former classmates left small-town life to find urban opportunities. Citizens across the country can fulfill government activities as Federal employees without being in the Washington metropolitan area. Consider: as government has outsourced functions to the private sector, contractors are most likely accomplishing the same tasks through decentralized, remote team members. Plus, decentralizing government expands and enhances the labor pool by attracting a broader (and more representative?) segment of American society.

(3) Social networks like GovLoop allow for people to connect with one another and mitigate the distance caused by geography. Not only that, but virtual worlds like Second Life and video technology offered by companies like Cisco and Tandberg will enable us to communicate with one another as if were in the same room. Granted, it's not the same thing as being live and in person, but we can approximate the experience. In addition, one might contend that the balance of work and life that emerges from teleworking situations allows people to spend more time with their families and at their schools, churches and community groups.

Those are just three reasons why I think this proposal has some validity and virtue. What are your thoughts?


JenX67 said...

I so hope you're right about #2. I want to work from home...

Andrew Krzmarzick said...

Hi jenx67,

There's hope! I am a teleworker for a quasi-government organization....albeit the only one in my organization!

I am making it my mission to promote telework in government, including a recent project in collaboration with the US Office of Personnel Management to create a course that encourages Federal managers to grant telework agreements. There has been some reluctance to date, so the first step toward #2 above (remote Federal employees) is to create a teleworking culture. After that, the logical next step is for people to "work from anywhere!"