A Conversation With...Chuck Wilsker

You would be hard pressed to find someone who can espouse the benefits of working from home like Chuck Wilsker.

Spend 30 minutes with the president and CEO of The Telework Coalition, a not-for-profit based in Washington, D.C., and he’ll rattle off an endless array of reasons why telecommuting makes sense. Exorbitant gas prices only provide extra ammunition for his argument.

Since everyone is feeling the pinch in the pocketbook, TelCoa’s message is gaining importance. Wilsker held a press conference when prices first began to rise a few months ago to simply tell commuters they can reduce their fuel consumption 40 percent by working from home two days a week.

“This is not new math,” he said. “We’re trying to use the whole idea of working independent of location to give people opportunities beyond what they have now.”

Hurricane Katrina disrupted oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and displaced thousands of New Orleans residents. Wilsker is doing his part to help by networking with different organizations to find them employment. Of course, those hired would not be required to show up everyday. Instead, they might be able to work from donated office space, using a computer and high-speed Internet access.

From a legislative standpoint, Wilsker and TelCoa have thrown their support behind a bill known as the Unfair Telecommuter Tax Act. Introduced by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., the measure would end states’ ability to tax telecommuters double.

The bill, which stems from a case that went before the New York Court of Appeals, would prevent New York from levying taxes on Connecticut telecommuters for work they perform in Connecticut. The New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state upholding the law requiring telecommuters whose employers are based in New York pay income tax on 100 percent of their earnings. A law professor who lives in Connecticut and works three days a week in New York challenged the law.

There have been successes too. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office launched a pilot program that started with a few lawyers telecommuting two days a week, Wilsker said. Now, all attorneys are participating and come in only two hours a week. Their absence has freed four floors of office space at a savings to the federal government of $1.5 million a year, Wilsker said.

“Once somebody tries teleworking, or telecommuting, we find the vast majority of them like it,” he said. “There are so many bottom-line benefits.”

And Wilsker continues to rattle them off while nary taking a breath. People who work from home, for instance, tend to be more loyal and productive, he said. Because they are only driving to work half the time, there could be opportunities to save on auto insurance, Wilsker said. On the social front, less driving means less air pollution and vehicular emissions. Telecommuting could also save motorists who work in large cities the frustration from sitting in traffic several hours each week.

“It goes on and on,” Wilsker said.

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