On Working From Home

On Working From Home

Because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, many people are struggling with working from home for the first time. Here’s an account of my first experience, which I shared with readers of the Republican-American back in 1996:

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Working from home is simple, right?

It’s been said—probably by the likes of George Burns—that there are three major forms of communication in this world: telephone, telegraph, and telecommuter.

Ha! You thought I was going to tell one of those sexist jokes, didn’t you? A comic of George Burns’ generation, particularly teamed with Gracie Allen, probably would have said “… and tell a woman.” But no-o-o. We live in enlightened times, times of equal rights. Men can gossip as well as women—maybe better.

Besides, if I’d used that tired old line, it would never get past the censor. You see, through the miracles of modern technology I’m working from home today, and she’s been in and out, looking over my shoulder, for the last 15 minutes or so.

It’s called telecommuting, and that makes me a telecommuter. Computers have finally allowed us to work from home instead of the confines of our offices. For the first time, I can write this column in the living room, surrounded by stimuli, unencumbered by distractions.

(Excuse me … gotta go change the laundry.)

Ah, yes. The coffee’s on, or at least it was at breakfast time. It’s nearly noon now; I’ve drifted into some distractions this morning—things like bills, and discussions about school, and health issues, and the paper, and the checkbook, and correspondence, and about a dozen phone calls.

(Sorry about that. When I got up to pour the coffee, I noticed I hadn’t finished the dishes in the sink.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Here I am, surrounded by stimuli, like a dozen phone calls. At the office I have voice mail, but somehow when you’re at home you feel compelled to answer the phone or the doorbell.

Gosh. I hope I don’t have to open the door. I’m still in my bathrobe. Not that you care what I’m wearing, but if I were in the office it would be shirt-and-tie, presentable-to-the public attire. Not here. Casualness breeds creativity.

(Maybe I’d better go get dressed for work. Just in case.)

At the office, I’m surrounded by distractions and deadlines: phone calls, meetings, breaking stories, getting the page to the copy desk on time.

(Excuse me again. The cat wants to be let out. )

Here, though, I have privacy and time to concentrate.

(Excuse me again. Gotta let the cat back in.)

I chased my spouse outside to do her errands long ago this morning—sometime after breakfast and the bookkeeping and before writing the third line of this column. I couldn’t deal with the distractions or the fear of sharing my unfinished work.

(Hmm. It’s lunchtime for most people now, and I’m getting hungry. Maybe a little snack while I pack my lunch to take to work.)

There. Now we’re done. This column, which normally takes about an hour to complete at the office, took only—uh, three hours this week in the privacy of my own home.

(Oh, gee, look at the time. I promised I’d meet my wife at my of­fice an hour ago to sign some papers. Gotta run.)


Originally published as “If work drags on, bring it on home where time flies” Copyright Republican-American Thursday, May 2, 1996. Read their current columnists and bloggers here. If you enjoyed this and would like to know when a “Living Here” collection is released, sign up here. I’ll also send you the secret password to unlock the Sneak Preview page on this blog.

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