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Work from home? No problem for locals

The snowstorm kept his car stuck in the garage, but Clint Broome still got to work on Monday.

"My department is completely remote today," explained Broome, a senior finance analyst at Bank of America in Charlotte.

Twenty years ago, few would know what that means. But laptops and high-speed Internet have made "telecommuting" a common practice for Charlotte-based employees who live in York, Chester and surrounding counties.

Broome opted not to drive to Bank of America's corporate headquarters from his home near Richburg, a small town in Chester County.

Using a remote network, he kept up with his duties as a senior finance analyst in global accounting and general ledger operations.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo say many employees can work remotely, and that they are encouraged to use their judgment during bad weather.

"When you work for one of the largest financial institutions in the world, I guess the work must go on!" Broome said in an e-mail.

More than one-third of York County residents travel out of state for work, according to Census figures. The average time for a commute, out of state and local, was 25.1 minutes.

A growing number of employers say business doesn't have to stop, even when commutes do.

More desks sat empty on Monday at Red Ventures, an Internet marketing business in the Fort Mill area.

The company offers a work-from-home option that lets corporate employees log into a system to complete their work online, said spokeswoman Kylie Craig. Sales center employees can take calls from home as long as they have proper equipment.

"We held meetings via conference calls and still got everything taken care of," Craig said.

A new kind of workplace

Telecommuting will grow in popularity as gas prices rise and technology improves, said Sam Williams, a Bank of America finance analyst who lives in Rock Hill.

"I normally work from home every Wednesday," Williams said. "But with the weather reports coming in this weekend, I had already planned on working from home."

"It was nice to not deal with the elements and the frustrations of traveling into Charlotte."

Williams said technology is "drastically" changing the workplace environment.

Fewer bank employees choose to relocate when their jobs change, he said, because technology allows them to hold meetings and conduct business from their home offices.

"All of our relocation counselors that I support work 100 percent from home - and they handle associates moving all across the U.S.," Williams said.

But working from home doesn't always go smoothly, said Yolanda Cunningham of Rock Hill, who commutes to work off Tyvola Road in Charlotte.

Cunningham works at Lash Group, a health care consulting and reimbursement firm.

The online network was overwhelmed Monday as too many employees logged in from remote locations, Cunningham said.

"Luckily, my company has an awesome IT department and the issue was resolved around lunchtime," Cunningham said. "Got off to a bumpy start but had a very productive day working from home."

It was an unusual start to the spring semester for students at Winthrop University - and for professors such as Anne Collins, who worked from home to keep students informed of upcoming course work.

Collins, a professor in the Richard Riley College of Education, said she felt a tad guilty for interrupting a rare snow day.

"My new students at Winthrop are celebrating that their first week of classes may be canceled," she said, "while mean instructors like me are e-mailing their syllabi, assignments and snow plans to them."

The Charlotte Observer contributed to this story.