Microsoft has signed a deal with BT to offer 1,500 of its UK employees home ADSL access, even though the director behind the deal has admitted that he cannot get broadband where he lives.
The software giant is the first corporate customer of a new broadband service from BT that uses DSL technology to connect home workers to their employees.
Based on BTopenworld, the service uses a virtual private network to connect teleworkers around the UK to their networks back at the office, and offers fast, always-on access to the internet.
Steve Harvey, director of people, profits and loyalty at Microsoft, explained that the deal forms a cornerstone of the company's commitment to its employees' work/life balance.
Earlier this year, Microsoft came second in the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For rankings, and picked up a special award for its commitment to a work/life balance.
"The reality is that a lot of employees get more from a new gadget like a pocket PC or ADSL access than from a pay rise," said Harvey. "We encourage employees to work smarter not longer. It's not about working 24 hours a day."
He refused to give financial details but described the deal as "very cost effective".
"We're still finalising the deal with BT and I haven't worked out the financial return on investment," he explained. "Sometimes you do things that are right for the business and right for the people. But I'm hoping to delay the start of my next building by another two years."
Harvey added that he was confident of broadband access issues being addressed to make the rollout a reality.
"I think it's the start of broadband becoming much more readily available," he said. "As soon as broadband is available in the area, we will start putting it in people's houses."
BT announced last week that 100 local internet exchanges were being upgraded to handle ADSL lines, and that a further 500 were being looked at with a view to a potential future upgrade as part of a massive broadband push. Currently, 1,010 BT exchanges have been ADSL-enabled.
The UK teleworker population is estimated to grow by up to 25 per cent over the next four years and reach 8.3 million by 2005, according to BT-commissioned research.
The company indicated that its new teleworker service will be widely available from June.
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