Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Home work, work at home

I remember when I spent countless hours doing school work on a table in a bedroom in my childhood home. I was in high school, and it was a time when I serious started thinking about careers. I remember the old chair and the old table. Then, I had a high opinion of my own abilities.

But what I remember most was that the bedroom window looked out on a beautiful green lawn, a variety of colorful flowers and, in the background, a stately eucalyptus tree. It was the exciting life of my childhood, and it was the most pleasant of atmospheres. I spent many hours working there.

If I wanted a break, I had only to go out the back door and walk about a mile along a stand of pine trees on a dirt lane to a playing field. It was nice duty. One wouldn't think it possible, but the atmosphere now is even better. I work in a home office overlooking a near-pristine park (a cricket club, no football pitch), surrounded by foliage of one sort or another and full of interesting creatures. It is a bliss-filled setting. For breaks I can walk around the park, which would take up most of the day, or any part thereof. Fifteen to 30 minutes of solitude does wonders for the muse. Nice duty. Nice way to work. That is the good news.

It comes at either end of 10 years of bad news, work atmosphere-wise. Offices, at least the half dozen I inhabited, are work-friendly places, but they don't do much for the soul. Generally, I worked at a desk surrounded by other desks stretching the four directions to the walls, which were inside walls, far from sunlight. Sometimes I had a cubicle. Not much difference. As I got more and more into managerial roles, my work space became a series of offices, all interior. There were windows, to be sure, but they faced the open-plan area so that I could watch, should I choose, people at work and, more importantly, they could watch me. One office that I occupied for years was just plain stuffy. I fussed with the building maintenance people constantly, hoping for an adequate supply of fresh air. They were sympathetic, even agreed, using their various instruments, that the room had a problem. But they were never able to fix it.

Now, it is fascinating work, and 90-plus percent of the time I'm unaware of my physical surroundings, intent on the tasks at hand and in dealing with the issues to complete work each day. This is hardly sweat-shop stuff, and it is probably as good as it gets. All the people who knew me when I worked long weeks in an office think I look "good" these days. "Relaxed," they say. I think it is the sunlight warming my left shoulder.