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Tue, March 19

Telecommuting makes sense to more and more local residents

Charlie Grantham, an expert in the trend of telecommuting, says the growing movement shows no sign of slowing down.

"I run into somebody new (who telecommutes) about once a week," said Grantham, who also works out of his Prescott home. He estimates that as much as 5 percent to 7 percent of Prescott's workforce engages in telecommuting. Within five years, he predicts the number will be as high as 10 percent to 15 percent.

Greg Fister, economic development coordinator for the City of Prescott, agrees that the number is growing, but he said the city has no way of knowing just how many of the workers live within city limits. "Telecommuters are a hard group to keep track of," Fister said.

Although the 2000 census shows that 7 percent of Prescott's workforce labors at home, Fister pointed out that the numbers don't distinguish between those who telecommute and those who have other home businesses.

Eight years ago, Reeves was on the front edge of the trend, when he went to his employers and proposed working from home. "At that time, I was the first one," Reeves said. "Since what I do is based on computers, I had the technology to do everything at home."

The computer scientist convinced his employers that he would be just as productive from a home office as he was from the company headquarters. "They said, 'yeah, we'll give it a try,'" Reeves said. "But I kind of had to prove myself."

And in fact, Reeves said his productivity at the job actually increased when he began working from home. "I don't get disturbed as much," he said. "When I was at the office, we had so many meetings that we sometimes didn't have a chance to do the work." He added: "When you're on-site, you tend to do an awful lot of interfacing that doesn't need to be done."

Although Reeves acknowledges that he does miss out on the office rumor mill, he said he adjusted just fine to communicating with his co-workers via the Internet or phone.

After telecommuting for less than a year, Andrews is a relative newcomer to the trend. She admits she is still adjusting to the isolation she sometimes feels in her quiet home office.

"I loved going into the office every day," she said. And at first, the thought of being on her own with her computer was intimidating.

"It was kind of scary, because a lot of us didn't grow up with computers. (At home), you don't have that tech person right there." But she has found that computer support is available through an online computer service.

For both Andrews and Reeves, family concerns drove their decisions to move away from their California offices.

Andrews' parents and sister and brother-in-law live in the area, and she wanted to be closer to them. Telecommuting gives her the freedom to help her parents when they need it, she said, and to refocus her priorities away from the office. "I think I have a little more balanced lifestyle now," she said.

And for Reeves, it was a reluctance to have his young daughter grow up in a big city that brought him to Prescott. "When my daughter was three or four years old, my wife and I decided we didn't want to raise her in Los Angeles," Reeves said. Earlier, the Reeves had bought property in the Prescott area, with the thought that they would build a home here someday.

"So, instead of wait-ing for retirement," Reeves said, the couple decided to make the move in the mid-1990s.

Like Andrews, Reeves said the arrangement has freed up time for things in his life besides work. "It gives me the freedom to be able to be with my daughter when she gets home from school," he said.

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