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Heart of My Business
August 26, 2001 - Spokesman Review Street Level column:
Home is Where the Heart of My Business Is
Working at home has quirks and kinks all its own, not all of them delightful. Yet Susan Daffron says she wouldn't trade those for the daily commute-grind for anything.
Right now, behind me, a hound sighs contentedly. To my right, a cat sits in the window, flicking her tail and closely observing the birdies outside.
Clacking noises of a keyboard emanate from the next room. Life in the home office rolls on.
I've been working from home for almost seven years now. Traditionally, experts have advised those of us who work from home to never, ever tell anyone, and do lots of things to mask the fact that our office is actually in a spare bedroom. I've found that people have a number of perceptions about those of us who choose to avoid the daily commute but scorn isn't one of them.
Here are a few of the responses I have encountered:
Part of the disbelief may stem from the fact that not everyone is suited to this life. For example, if you don't treat your business like, well, a business, people will write you off as a hobbyist, a hack or worse.
Sure, it sounds simple. But what it really means is that even when it's not peaceful and there's a blizzard or one or more canines is busily spewing noxious effluent onto the hallway linoleum, we must retain composure.
Life is full of distractions but we still meet deadlines and take phone calls. In a regular office, people take coffee breaks; we take "cleanup and, uh-oh, let the dog out" breaks.
I hate sitting in traffic more than just about anything. But some people might find our mundane morning routine oddly complex. For example, during our coffee, we have a short status meeting to determine what work we need to do today. Then it's time to feed the four dogs.
When all canines have finished and are sitting (no small feat for some), I walk over to the door and release them for the after-eating outing. Post outing, it's clean up the yard time. In summer, it's also water the garden time. In winter, it's shovel the snow time.
After all that, I can begin work.
It probably takes as long as a morning commute but there's no road rage. The difference between our life and city life came home to me when one of our New York City-based clients said, "I just want to be around lots of trees and fresh air. I'm so sick of the city!"
Every customer -- not to mention every person -- wants to feel special. If someone cares enough to call me about our business, for whatever reason, I figure I should take the time to return the call.
Big companies like Wendy's have spent a lot of time and advertising dollars trying to put a face on their gigantic corporation by adding Dave to their commercials. Those of us who work from home don't have to do that. When you call us, you're talking to an officer of the corporation, which cuts through a lot of that big-business bureaucracy we're all so tired of.
Sure, working from home isn't for everyone. It requires discipline and commitment. But I wouldn't trade my home office for anything.
I may like my car but I like my house a lot more.
Susan Daffron, Sandpoint, is a member of The Spokesman-Review's Board of Contributors and is the president of a software and publishing company.
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