South Whitehall Patch Editor Mary Ellen Alu discovered the perils of working from home when she was getting her 5-year-old daughter Carmie ready for bed the night of a candidates’ debate and accidentally bumped speed dial without knowing it.
Later that night she reached one of the candidates, who said he had received an obscene phone call from her number earlier. He said he kept hearing someone say, “Carmie, take off your clothes, it’s time for your bath.”
I haven’t made any accidental obscene phone calls from my home/office but I’ve had to escape to bedrooms to conduct phone interviews when our household hubbub gets too raucous.
For me, perhaps the biggest drawback is there is no clear line between work and home life anymore. Technology has put us all on a short leash. When was the last time you were actually unreachable?
According to the U.S. Census 2009 Community Survey, 5.9 million people list their home as their primary workplace. Other estimates are much higher, with the numbers growing each year.
Those of us who work from home sometimes have to remind friends and family that we really are working. Kelley Fritzinger of Salisbury Township has done medical transcription for about 25 years, seven of them from home. She said it takes discipline, but also occasional reminders to her family that she really isn’t available for trivia.
“I’ve gotten angry and said, ‘Pretend I am not here. I am working and I’m not here,’ ” she said. “But everybody has a question: ‘Where’s the ketchup? Should I take the dog for a walk?’ ”
The good part is she has the flexibility to work anytime and doesn’t have to dress up – she works in pajamas all winter. Without co-workers to talk to, it’s easier to concentrate. “I get so much more done at home,” she said.
My friend, Scott Weidensaul, a writer who lives in Schuylkill County, has been working from home for almost 25 years. For years an elderly neighbor who had a mailbox on Scott’s property would stop each day to get his mail. “Joe would blow the car horn because he wanted to chat,” Scott recalls fondly. “And if you didn’t come immediately, he’d blow the horn again.”
Scott’s biggest distraction was self inflicted. About 10 years ago, a white-winged Dove – which is rarely seen in Pennsylvania - showed up on his property. He posted the sighting and his location to an online network of birdwatchers. “People were showing up at my driveway at 5:30 in the morning,” Scott told me. “They’d say, ‘I just drove in from Philly, do you mind if I use your bathroom?’ ”
Scott forgot to warn his neighbor who later said the crowds of people with telescopes and binoculars were the tipoff.
“He said ‘I figured they were either looking for a rare bird or waiting for the mother ship,’ ” Scott recalls.
If you have a good story about working from home, feel free to post it or e-mail me. If I get some good ones I might collect them for a future column.