In the fall of 1989, I went out on my own, naming my “company” Treadwell Associates, although I was the only employee. Working out of the basement of our condo in Boxbrough, Massachusetts I prepared admissions and fundraising materials for colleges and schools throughout the U.S. Sometimes I’d sell the job directly and then hire designers, photographers and printers to work with me on the project. At other times, I just did writing for companies that were in the same business. Those firms often used me to help sell the work. I continued the basement office approach after moving to Maine in 2002.

During the first month of operation, our Black Lab puppy Chowder (not fully trained) was in my basement office. I had put a major proposal on the floor. Chowder walked over to the proposal and, how can I put this delicately, “watered” it. Maybe he was signaling his disapproval of the proposal; I preferred to think that he just needed to go out. (As it happened, I did land that job.)

The current trend of working remotely from home, reminded me of working on my own – no outside office, no secretary, no bookkeeper, no lawyer. I once wrote a piece entitled, “How I Save 1,380 Hours a Year,” which recounted all the time I saved by not having to drive to an office, attend (often) senseless meetings or while away the time at the water cooler catching up on the latest gossip.

That said, I often left the office to spend several days on college and school campuses interviewing people as well as walking around, eating the food, etc. There’s no substitute for being there. In fact, I couldn’t have done my job had I never left my “office” in the basement.

Working remotely has become the go-to solution for many people during the pandemic, at least for those not in the direct service industry. Our host student Mamadou lived in our house for 18 months while working remotely for Fidelity Investments, which is headquartered in Boston. During that time, he never met anyone at Fidelity in person, face-to-face. Stories abound of young professionals moving away from cities to rural areas because they can work remotely. Many people — including my two sons — like working from home.

Students all along the educational spectrum have suffered the consequences of going to “school” right in their own home. And the younger the student, the worse the impact as any responsible parent will tell you. The last thing kids need is more screen time. I’ve heard that some young people have even had to seek medical treatment for their addictions to their screen devices. My good wife spent her career as a speech therapist working with birth-to-three years old. Try doing that by Zoom.

Employers are now figuring out the best solution to the working from home (full-time, part time or a combination) problem. A hybrid solution seems sound. It might also help ease the absurd who-can-be-seen-in-the-office-working-the-most-hours competition. It will save employees money. It will provide a better work-life balance. And it will keep more cars off the road more of the time, a boon for addressing climate change.

I strongly believe that all students should be in school for maximum learning effectiveness. That said, remote learning offers great opportunities for a college to offer courses not available on its own campus. Not all colleges need a course in Arabic, for example, or the history of the horror movie. Parenthetically, I do think students would be well served if all colleges offered courses in personal financial management and, at the risk of sounding all preachy, the responsibility of being a good citizen in a democracy.

Any discussion of the let’s-go-remote phenomenon should acknowledge the pandemic’s severe impact on the lives and livelihoods of actors and musicians, professionals whose creativity is best expressed and appreciated in a live performance format. Let’s really support them when things return to the new normal, whatever shape that may take.

No one really knows what the next six months will bring in terms of the pandemic. But we do know that we’ve all been forced to be more nimble, and that’s not all bad. Maybe we’ve even learned to be a little kinder, and that’s a very good thing.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected] (David’s latest book co-authored with Anneka Williams, who graduated from Bowdoin College this past May, is entitled, “A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden: Sixty Stories to While Away the Hours,” is available at Gulf of Maine books (Brunswick), Mockingbird Books (Bath), Longfellow Books (Portland), Paul’s Marina (Brunswick), the Bowdoin Bookstore or on Amazon.)

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