When we lived on our farm in Canada, that first week of September was when we started cleaning up the garden for the first frost.
We would pull the onions and eventually spread them out on a farm wagon to dry. It was just one of the many chores that our Labs, Tok and Fundy helped us to do before the snow came.
I have written before about the increase in traffic in the Reston area that first week in September. I am guessing that has not changed in the many years since I stopped working in Northern Virginia. People in Reston seem to find renewed intensity in job focus after Labor Day. I am not sure if the intensity comes from having had a nice vacation or the knowledge that there are only a couple of months until the holiday season when things slow everywhere but the malls.
My memories of working in Reston are long days for the whole year. That is just standard in the world of technology as many Restonians will tell you. Home for me was almost four hours away so other than having a nice meal in the evening, I spent much of my time working and often trying to convince those with families nearby that should go home before 9 PM. Such was the dedication of employees at Apple in the early days. Since I managed a team of people across the country, it was not unusual to talk to someone on the west coast at eight or nine PM east coast time. It was often easier to talk then than it was earlier in the day when I was swamped with east coast calls.
Now that I live on North Carolina's Southern Outer Banks, my hours are a bit more flexible and a lot shorter. I try to be at my desk except for a lunch break from 10 AM until 4 or 5 PM. It is when I do my calls and the research for them. Then I often return to work late in the evenings for another two or three hours when I spend time writing.
What makes my schedule very palatable is where I live. I can take a boat ride early in the morning or go on a beach walk late in the afternoon. Both my skiff and kayak are just behind our home a few feet from the water. Living in an area where the water is at your doorstep makes some quick recreation possible when you have some flexibility in your work hours.
I often wonder why so many companies pack themselves so tightly into Northern Virginia. There are some good reasons why it is not so productive. Often administrative people end up having a horrendous commute to areas where they can actually afford to live. On the weekends even shopping is dififcult because of the traffic which also limits recreational opportunities.
You can buy a single family home in our area with three bedrooms and two baths for under $200K. Other than a handful of weekends when bridge traffic to the beaches is slow, we rarely even think about traffic unless it is avoiding tourist traffic in the grocery stores on the weekend.
Many of today's companies still like to gather their people in offices because most do not trust people to work unsupervised. Maybe my career which has mostly been in home offices colors my view, but I know that I can work very effectively without any supervision. I suspect people living in an area like where we live can be far more effective employees because they are not exhausted from commuting and they have plenty of nearby recreational opportunities to keep their minds fresh. Of course companies would be worried that they would be taking calls on the beach. There are far worse things for employees to do. Even I will admit to have gotten a few calls while in my boat, but the clients did not seem to mind.
WideOpen Networks the company where I work is based in Blacksburg, Virginia about thirty-five minutes farther than the almost six hour journey from my house on the coast to Roanoke, Virginia where I worked for Apple. Modern technology lets me do my job from the upstairs office in our home.
The Internet changed a lot of things and having high speed broadband has made an even bigger difference. During most of the time when I am in the office, I keep Skype running on one of my three office computers. The CEO of our company and I can easily have a video conference to discuss things. We use some Internet based tools that allow us to share contacts, plans, and to do lists. We often upload files that we are sharing to DropBox. When we want to have a joint call with a client, we always use GoToMeeting software.
While I am still talking to many of the same level of people that I was meeting when I worked for Apple, mostly my meetings now are by telephone or video conference. It certainly makes a huge difference in travel expenses and yet we still get business done. Sometimes personal face to face trips are required but usually those are the speciality of others on the team. I get to stay at my desk and take a lunch walk along the docks in our subdivision. Just the view there like this picture of an August monring can keep your spirits up.
This is such a radically different way of working that it is hard to compare with those first years when I worked in an office in Fredericton, New Brunswick from 1982-84. Messages often came on little pinks slips from the secretaries and calls on clients were almost always in person. The idea of working months without filing an expense report would be hard to explain to us in those days when we lived in our cars.
I look at working like I do as similar to a school which runs twelve months of the year instead of just nine months. With my current job presenting the opportunity for recreation in the mornings and afternoons, there is hardly a need for a vacation of a couple of weeks. Once in a while I might take an afternoon or morning off to go fishing but even that is unusual since I can often go fishing in the morning and be back at my desk at a normal time or I can fish on the weekends like I did when I caught my prized Red Drum.
Of course as the season changes and we have less day light and it is a little harder to enjoy those late afternoon trips, but those shortened days really do not come into play until just before Thanksgiving and by then things are slowing down for the holidays.
I fully expect that people will continue to work very hard in this century. I suspect the thing which might make their jobs more tolerable is where they work. Areas like Carteret County along North Carolina's Crystal Coast are in a perfect position to take advantage of the changing situation if they quickly can grasp the importance of building the right kind of infrastructure. In a world where the personal sales call is rapidly disappearing, high speed fiber to our homes is going to become the superhighway of the future. Cable modems are a poor and expensive substitute for a true high speed connection.
This is a great article about the importance of broadband to communities. I hope our leaders figure this out. The model of everyone working in a densely packed area does not seem sustainable.
For me being in this truly scenic area and working in a high tech job is truly living my dream.