Horist: Working from home has been my life
I recently realized that I have been a person ahead of my times. I have worked from my home since 1975. I find it almost impossible to believe that it was 47 years ago that I first set up an office in my basement family room. I had one phone and a table lamp on a dropleaf table. In terms of equipment, I had a portable manual typewriter and a cheap copying device that used a light bulb to make copies on heat-sensitive paper.
In the seven times I moved in subsequent years, the new domicile had to have room for a real workspace – including a private office, staff area and conference room. Of course, my office equipment upgraded to multi-function copiers, computers, tractor-feed printers, video equipment and multiple phones with multiple lines. The workforce later included my wife, two or three permanent staffers, part-timers, interns and outside contractors.
Thanks to Skype, I could hold conversations and virtual meetings with folks anywhere in the world. When I started the business, a brief call to China was extremely difficult and very costly. With the new technology, I could talk to a Chinese business associate – face-to-face – for unlimited time at no cost.
It now seems that the Covid Pandemic has forced a surge in “working at home.” But it does take a certain amount of discipline – and is not right for all people in all employment situations.
I found that it required a designated workspace away from the main family environment. It was as much psychological as physical – although a place with a door is best. In my case it was more expansive than most because it was the center of my business with staff, clients and others coming and going.
Since space was limited, I ran my business on a project management basis. I would hire from outside whatever human resources I needed to complete a project. In one case, I had more than 400 people on my “payroll” – well actually the client’s payroll.
I made the decision to keep the enterprise at home for several reasons. The first was personal. I liked being around the kids. I would see them after school – maybe even taking a break to go out for ice creams or a matinee movie. I was almost always home for dinner. I could read them bedtime stories and return to the office for a couple of hours. It was just a different way to slice up the hours.
The other major reason was cost. Since soliciting clients is very competitive, I could offer lower rates to clients based on my low overhead. Many times over the course of years, I beat out major consulting firms based on rates. I was a very small company with a lot of very large clients.
Then there’s the joy of almost never facing rush-hour traffic. I could be in my office within minutes of getting out of bed. I laughed when the Census Form asked my commute time each day. I put down “one minute.”
There was also an ancillary benefit for the kids. They had immediate access to all the supplies and machinery they would need for any assignment – multi-color paper, pencils, notebooks, glue, tape, folders, binding machines. They turned out some very impressive school report and creative projects. Occasionally, I would “hire” them to help out – like stuffing envelopes (before email) or making multiple copies.
Another advantage is the dress code. If I did not have any meeting on the schedule or was heading to a luncheon, my basic attire was Levis and a t-shirt. I was ahead of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk by decades.
Right now, I am sitting in the home-office writing this commentary – looking out my window at the beautiful … oh … it’s raining.
I can well understand why so many workers, who have been operating from home because of the Pandemic, are reluctant to go back to the office.
So, there ‘tis.