Eric Drummie’s new vice-president stopped by Drummie’s desk at Alcatel Canada’s Kanata, Ont., office for weeks to introduce himself but never found him.

The frustrated exec finally told Drummie’s manager it was dusty and it didn’t look like he’d ever even sat at it. He was probably right. Drummie,

you see, hadn’t been to the office in more than a year, but his manager was unconcerned — an 1,100 km commute is a lot to ask of anyone.

Drummie has worked from his Fredericton home for almost four years. And while the concept of teleworking isn’t new, he isn’t just checking e-mail and filling out time sheets. The senior network design specialist and his team are responsible for figuring out how to get multiple boxes to work together as a system.

In late 1999, there was a large turnover in Drummie’s group. At the same time he and his wife were looking to move back to New Brunswick. His manager asked what he could do to make Drummie reconsider. Drummie wondered if he could set up shop in Fredericton. As luck would have it, Alcatel (then Newbridge) was testing a VPN and he got the go ahead.

“”When I moved to Fredericton I had DSL installed the first day, I had the VPN working the first day and I was right to work as if nothing had happened,”” Drummie says.

This model works for a number of reasons, he says. One, his work isn’t physically hands on. Two, despite being part of a team, his is a standalone role. Three, the technology is available. Drummie says as long as he can access a switch through a VPN in Alcatel’s lab area, he can grab traffic and run it through the switch.

“”The boxes are already configured and in many cases I can alter the configuration remotely,”” he says. “”I look like and work like I would be if I was at my desk in Kanata.””

Adam Benson, manager, enterprise services at Xwave’s St. John’s, Nfld., office has been responsible for enabling employees to work remotely for the past year. He says everyone in the organization has some remote capability and about 70 per cent can access an expanded portfolio of services.

Benson says the remote model is on the rise with clients, but not everyone can afford it.

While security is a great concern, support might be a bigger hurdle. Drummie and Benson say remote workers need to be able to troubleshoot at a relatively high level.

“”We’ve overcome that a little by using remote administration tools. We use standard images on notebooks that we role out in the organization,”” Benson says.

“”I have two backup laptops just in case this one dies because it’s going to take me three days to get it to our office, to get it repaired or looked at and then back again,”” says Drummie.

Director of network operations for Alcatel Canada Peter Downey says while remote users add to his workload they don’t cost more to support them. He says the deciding factors are the nature of the position and whether the employee will be productive.

Drummie says the benefits far outweigh the downside. Sure, he misses tech talk and water cooler chats with co-workers, but “”I don’t have to worry about walking across a parking lot that’s longer than a football field in the middle of February. I’m home when my son gets home.

“”If the tradeoffs aren’t as good then you’d have to ask yourself, ‘why am I working from home?’ If you need lots of social interaction, working from home is not what you want,”” Drummie says.

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