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Teleworker-in-Chief: Managing a Hurricane, or Anything, from Anywhere

August 30, 2011 - 0 Comments

I hope those on the Eastern seaboard path of Hurricane Irene are recovering quickly from any storm damage and returning smoothly to life as usual. It’s a weekend we’re all grateful to put behind us, to be sure.

The destructive storm that took a toll on cities up and down the country’s Atlantic coast also cut short President Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, as he returned early to Washington to manage the federal response to the storm. It was perhaps an indirectly prophesized ending to the president’s getaway, as the public had criticized from the get-go his decision to vacation right now in light of the country’s economic woes.

But did Obama have to leave the vineyard to manage Hurricane Irene? OK, to be fair, he picked a vacation spot directly in the hurricane’s predicted path, so in this case perhaps leaving proved prudent. But, did he have to endure the snide remarks about leaving Washington in general? According to Alysha Sideman of Federal Computer Week, presidents don’t really vacation during much of the time they take off: they telework.

With all of the mobile technology available today, presidents don’t miss anything when they’re away from the White House. And, with the availability of advanced video technology like telepresence, there’s no reason—power outage aside—that they can’t manage domestic or foreign issues just as aptly from their vacation destinations as they do from Washington. Telepresence provides the ability to connect face-to-face with anyone in the world, from anywhere, at any time. It’s a safe connection, with security beyond the firewall. We already saw the power of video collaboration to actually increase national security when the president used it to execute the raid that captured Osama bin Laden.

While telepresence may sound out of reach, this is off-the-shelf technology is available for everyone to benefit from – the president through to teachers and students, doctors and patients, and  the average Joe working from home on Fridays.

With telepresence, criticisms of presidential vacations lose some of their credibility. Of course we can’t control for hours spent on the golf course, but we can rest assured that, with the right video technology, a teleworking president has the same access to communication resources as a president sitting in the Oval Office.

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