Homeward Bound

Confessions of an At-Home Worker

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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My two faithful working companions -- my dog and my computer -- are always by my side in this work-from-home environment. (DTN Photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- I put on earrings today.

And perfume.

No, I didn't ditch the yoga pants. That's asking too much after stress baking (and eating) for the past few weeks.

Yes, I've read some of those self-help work-from-home tips that have been filling my email inbox. Everyone, it seems, has the answers on how to do this better, now that they are seasoned at-home workers, too.

Listen, I've worked from a home office for 37 years. I raised two children with a scant amount of childcare in that time. For the past 11 years, I've shared an office with my husband, who likes to whistle. Seven years ago, we added a golden retriever to the cacophony.

The UPS guy will tell you I do not dress for success during office hours. The FedEx guy will probably tell you I'm often barely dressed. Let's don't ask the cable guy. And, the Schwan's delivery driver -- well, he brings ice cream and that's an entirely different story.

Working from home is, frankly, about being a mess. That's what is grand about it.

But, I am often asked what the secret is to working successfully from home, so here is my map to home office success:


An office desk is nice, but if you move around, papers and other reference materials will be evenly distributed throughout the house and you'll never have to clean that desk. Work outside and a stiff breeze can bring instant filing relief.


This is not a problem since most of us sleep with our computers and work 24/7.


Since you are at home, you "technically" do not work. Ask any of the neighbors who "used to" drop in regularly.


Online conference calls and webinars are inevitable and combining them with toddlers and other pests (errr ... pets) is not a problem.

Find a closet with a light, an internet connection and a functioning door. Make sure there's enough room within the closet for your body and a large slot beneath the door.

Squirrel away M&M's and dog treats in your special conference pod. Eat the M&M's because, well ... dogs can't have chocolate. Administer treats beneath the door as needed. What you can't see doesn't happen.

When the Zoom call becomes too long, knock on the closet door and instantly unmute so the rest of the staff can hear the dog announce your next imaginary visitor.


When all else fails, bake. It is simply satisfying.

Seriously, I could go on and on with these tried and true tips, but the truth is, well ... nothing about the "new normal" is normal. It just is.

Even those of us who worked at home when mail, landlines and face-to-face conversations were lifelines are struggling to remember what day is most days. Our schedules have blended together in a blur of sameness with few relief valves.

There are genuine self-help tips that can be used to help lift the mental fog. Just taking a walk helps, for example. But mostly it is time to give ourselves a little grace and admit that sometimes things just have to give a little (this is not in reference to the yoga pants either).

Decades ago, I got a big dose of go-to advice about overcoming adversity while interviewing an Illinois farm widow. Lucille Crawford had taken over the farm after her husband's passing and knew a thing or two about resilience.

"When all else fails, don't forget to laugh at yourself," counseled Lucille. "And never, ever forget to put on your earrings."

Pamela Smith can be reached at pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN


Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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