Saturday, July 16, 2005

Working at Home

When my husband and I decided to take the plunge and move to Celebration, I never thought I'd be able to keep my corporate job. Fear of financial ruin was one of my biggest worries. Sure, I had my travel agency, and I planned to start a counseling practice, but both of those businesses involve a lot of variables.

Travel agents don't get paid until their clients actually take the trip. Thus, you might book plenty of vacations for 2006, but you won't see a penny of that money in 2005, when the bills are due. Counselors who see self-pay clients (as opposed to those using insurance) get paid at the time of treatment, but since I'd be starting from scratch, it would take some time to build up a client load. The unsteadiness is quite a change from a nice, comfortable, regular corporate paycheck.

Then it turned out that I'd be able to keep my job after all. Whew! My husband already knew that he'd be able to work from home for part of each month, so now I unexpectedly joined him in the ranks of telecommuters.

After 16 years in a bustling corporate environment, I wondered what it would be like to work from my family room, with a laptop balanced on my knees. Would I have the necessary discipline to drag my carcass out of bed at a reasonable hour and focus on my work? Could I resist temptations like television, community pools, and the fact that Disney World is a mere five-minute drive from my front door? Would I miss the companionship of co-workers and the joy of strolls to the cafeteria for coffee and gossip?

I also wondered whether my husband's presence would make a difference. Most of the time, I knew he'd be upstairs working in his office while I toiled away at my labors on the first floor. But ten days a month he'd be in Chicago, and I'd be entirely on my own, rattling around in a house devoid of other humans.

Originally, I had planned to accompany him to Chicago at least one week a month. However, that idea quickly flew out the window. The very first week I tried working from our old condo, I nearly went mad from boredom. When he's in Chicago, my husband is gone all day...and I do mean all. Our old home is in the suburbs, and he works in the heart of the city, so he has a roundtrip commute of over two hours. Stack that on top of his work schedule and his health club workout routine and he's rarely at the house, except to sleep.

At Duloc Manor, even when he's in Chicago, I'm never lonely because I've always got two cats worming their way onto my lap and a bird taunting them from the back of the couch. In Chicago, I was all alone except for an array of houseplants. Unlike Celebration, where we have a lot of friends right in the neighborhood, our Illinois friends are scattered far and wide. People in our condo building barely tolerate each other, and the town itself has no sense of community. It's a sprawling suburb where each cookie cutter brick bungalow or condo unit is an isolated island. There's no one living nearby to go out for coffee or lunch with, and no one ever drops in just to say hello.

If I still lived in Chicago, I would rather be working in an office environment, getting some social interaction. I enjoy my work, but sitting in isolation and staring at a computer screen for five to six hours a day would drive me insane.

But in Celebration, things are different. Even when my husband is gone for the week, I have my furry and feathered menagerie to keep me company. Cats dislike it when their human pays attention to anything other than them. Thus, they are in constant competition with my laptop, trying to climb on the keyboard or batting my hands in desperation for petting. Bradley, my bird, is loose I'm home, and he usually stays on top of his cage. But when I'm on the main floor, he knows that he can tease the cats because I will protect him if they try to reciprocate. He divebombs them and perches on the couch pillows behind me while I work, squawking birdy insults at the hapless felines. Sometimes he takes a nap on my shoulder and bites me in the ear if I dare to move and disturb his rest.

There is also plenty of human company. At our condo, if someone knocked on the door, I'd be afraid that it was drunken, drugged up revelers looking for the place across the hall. In Celebration, it's not at all uncommon for neighbors to simply stop by. Since my hours are flexible, I can take a little break for a cup of coffee. Instead of office gossip, I tap into the latest neighborhood happenings.

I can also break up my workday by running to Disney World for lunch (Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney is a favorite). Sure, I could run out in Chicago, but a suburban strip mall is no match for lunch at one of the Mouse House's many options and the ambiance of the Disney resort. Sometimes, I'll even slip in a quick ride (or two). The Land pavillion at Epcot has an excellent food court, so I'll grab a Fast Pass for Soarin', eat, and then jump on for a quick tour of Calfornia. The singles line at Test Track is usually short, so I might squeeze that in, too. Even if I'm there with friends, it's worth the time savings to ride separately.

I don't have much trouble starting work at a decent hour, especially since Florida time is an hour ahead of Illinois. When it's 10 a.m. for me, it's only 9 a.m. up north. I wake up about an hour before I start working so I can take the cats out while I water my flowers, shower, and get some coffee into my bloodstream.

Once I start working, I force myself to focus completely on my job until 3 p.m., when a block of court shows (Peoples Court, Judge Mathis, Judge Judy, and Judge Joe Brown) runs until 7 p.m. I usually work a few hours more, depending on how long I took for lunch, but I allow myself to multi-task and watch the television out of the corner of my eye.

Another pleasure of working in Florida, at least in mild weather, is being able to work outside on my front porch. In the condo, we have a large balcony, but it overlooks the parking lot and dumpsters. Sadly, our Chicago neighbors aren't clear on what a dumpster is meant for. Instead of making the supreme effort required to open it and put their trash inside, they toss the garbage bags down in front of it. Tying the bags closed is too difficult for some of them, so their refuse blows across the parking lot. Not a pleasant picture to view from my balcony, so I just stay inside.

At Duloc Manor, I have my beloved porch swing and a pair of rocking chairs. My front yard blooms with multi-colored flowers, and our home overlooks a quaint little cul de sac park. Instead of slobs tossing garbage bags around, I see people biking by or walking their dogs. Neighbors wave as they work in their gardens or enjoy their own front porches. Now that it's summer, the temperatures in the high 90s have driven me back inside, but I'm looking forward to returning to my outdoor "office" in the fall.

In theory, I should be able to work in downtown Celebration, as there is supposed to be wireless internet access in the area. I like the thought of relaxing at the lakefront in a rocker while tapping away at my keyboard. In practice, though, it would be hard to juggle paperwork and potentially distracting when the gaggles of timeshare victims and tourists come through. The lakefront is better for times when you don't need to focus and concentrate, like when you're indulging in an ice cream cone or Barnie's coffee. Also, cell phone reception tends to be spotty in town. Since I frequently take part in phone conferences, I need to be close to my land line.

Sometimes I venture out around rush hour and notice the traffic jams on I-4 as I pass over it on World Drive. Those are time times that I say a silent prayer of thanks that things worked out as they did. I'm spoiled rotten now; I just love working at home in Celebration. My commute is from the bedroom to the family room, and the coffee table makes a perfect desk...and I wouldn't want it any other way.

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1 comment:

Hippo said...

I, too, work at home and love every minute of it. I spent years dealing with I4 and 408 traffic, but no more! :)