Summer Home Work
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – The other day, I guess it was Friday, I tried to get in touch with a couple of key guys and found out that all of a sudden they were working from home.

"Is Tom there?" I asked his assistant, who seemed to be working at the office pretty much like always.

"No," she said. "Tom is working from home."

"Oh," I said. "Is he sick?"

"No," she said. "He's working from home."

So I called Tom at home and, yep, there he was. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm working from home," he said, perhaps a tad truculently. It was about noontime, and I thought I could distinguish a certain amount of chewing going on. That seemed to me to be pretty dedicated for a guy who was working at home. Like, if I were working at home, it's possible I would take a break for lunch and not work all the way through it just because I had so much to do. At my house, there are a lot of distractions that would prevent me from achieving the kind of productive excellence my bosses have come to expect from me, so I was pretty impressed that Tom could work and eat at the same time.

Anyhow, we had a good chat, Tom and I, about this squirrel problem he has in his garage and how the water shortage has made it difficult for him to water his lawn. Then we agreed that whatever it is I was calling about could wait until Monday, when he would be working from the office. Then we both hung up and went back to work, I suppose. I mean, I know I did.

Tom wasn't the only one who was hard at work at home that day. Chas, the guy at corporate I talk to a lot of the time when things are getting funky, was taking the same approach to his job function just then, apparently. "Is Chas there?" I asked his assistant, Cathy.

"Chas is working from home," said Cathy.

"Really!" I said. And I called him there. His answering machine picked up. I understood. Sometimes when you're working at home the telephone can be a huge time-waster. Very often it makes sense, if you've got a head of steam going in the concentration department, to let the machine pick up. Fortunately, all I needed to do was tell Chas something he needed to know for later in the following week, so I told his machine and that was that. I was glad things worked out that way, actually. I would have hated to disturb him when he was, you know, in the zone.

I started to wonder at this point if anybody was working at the office qua office, so I called the Left Coast, where people long ago perfected the art of not being where they are supposed to be. It was earlier there, of course, but you could get a feeling. I spoke to my guy Ted. "Ted," I said, "is anybody around today?"

"Well," said Ted thoughtfully, "there's me and Jimbo and...." His voice kind of drifted off.

"I guess a lot of people are working from home today," I offered.

"Yeah," said Ted, who I could tell had his feet up on his desk and a trade magazine on his lap. "They're working from home today."

Naturally, all of this made me think. If a bunch of my peers and several bosses and even some daring subordinates who are normally expected to be visible feel comfortable enough with their job descriptions to work from home when the spirit moves them, why not me?

I would say this coming Wednesday seems to be a moderately reasonable time to schedule a busy day of work at home. I've always hated Wednesdays anyhow. I figure first I'll get up early--like at ten. Then I will get ready much as usual, without shaving, dressing, or getting out of bed. Subsequently, while padding around the house in the big thirsty bathrobe I got at the last executive retreat in Santa Barbara, I will dig into my pile of documents over a nice bowl of Frosted Flakes, which retain a surprising amount of crunch, even in milk. After that, I'll work my keister off on my BlackBerry for a while and place some calls to a variety of senior managers so that everybody can see that I am in fact working while I am at home.

After that, I'll call Deedee, my assistant, and make sure that nobody is looking for me. By then it will be about--what, noon? I think I'll have soup and a sandwich and call a few junior-type people and scare them a little, just so they can feel me out there. Then I guess I'll take a nap, go out to the driving range and hit a few golf balls for no particular reason since I do not play golf, get a haircut whether I need one or not, have a big martini at about 5 P.M., and call it a day. Whew!

And you know what? It's only July. Just think how much we can all get done working at home during August.

By day, Stanley Bing is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at