Oregon State Bar Bulletin — FEBRUARY/MARCH 2015

Parting Thoughts

Laugh and Learn
By Bernard M. Levy

Those of us who work at home can exhibit idiosyncratic behavior not allowed in the conventional workplace. This free-spirit behavior has its downside, too. Less discipline in the workplace — shoes off or laces untied and torn sweatshirts — can present problems. However, after spilling a mug of coffee at my desk for the third time this week, it struck me: Such a faux pas is not cause for crying, but laughing.

Okay, let’s get the cliches out of the way. Necessity is the mother of invention, and when dealt lemons, make lemonade.

Sorry for that, but I had to do it. Coffee spilt at a workstation is a blessing in disguise; it forces you to clear off as well as clean your desk. Recognizing this valuable tool in home office cleanliness, I began to think of other lessons I’ve been forced to learn that could be communicated to others who work at home. I made a list, although I have not checked it twice. Neither naughty nor nice, here it is:

Shave and shower in the morning, or it’ll never happen.

Your attention span is directly proportional to the number of coffees drunk. Confine your coffee drinking to the morning hours, and productivity in the afternoon will measurably improve.

Hide the phone when working on a deadline. A variation of “hide the phone” is to place it in a plastic bag and give it to Cheddar, my Golden Retriever writing companion, to hide upstairs. It also turns into a game when a deadline is met.

Dedicate a daily or weekly time period for anal retentiveness. These “A.R.” activities include counting paper clips, checking to see which pens are almost out of ink and preparing lists that are the product of other lists that have been delisted. A.R. “time-out” is also called A.R. “time alone.” Significant others should not be included.

Snacks, particularly crackers, should be eaten directly over a pre-lined wastebasket. Also, it doesn’t hurt to teach a canine companion to eat his portion over the wastebasket, too. Dogs can be taught; cats cannot. Teaching time should be included in your A.R. time allocation.

Shredding is both entertainment and exercise. Materials should be shredded during your exercise period. Exercises that can be done while shredding include balancing on one foot, waving fingers in the air and leg stretches. Make sure your shredder has a finger guard.

If these activities do not provide enough exercise, there’s always the opportunity to run around the house with scissors in your hand. Although frowned upon by parents, I’m at an age when I can do this with impunity.

Dancing is not only permitted, but encouraged. Dancing is always an acceptable form of exercise, and uninhibited office dancing is the best. If you’ve got hardwood or concrete floors, try a little tap dancing to Sibelius’ Second Symphony. Magic, pure magic.

Mental exercises are also necessary while working at home, and I suggest juggling assignments and jumping to conclusions.

As you can see, if viewed in the proper light, home office activities can be fun and productive. Intra-office communication is also very important. Cheddar and I have it down pat. Two thumps on the rug with his tail means either a cookie, or outside duty calls. A whistle or two from me and the display of a plastic bag means getting ready for a walkie. Key jingling signals our daily trip to the post office and, hopefully, the bank.

The opportunities for office procedure improvement never cease. I sent away to petsofficepersonnel.com for “Large Dog Opposing Thumbs.” They fit Cheddar, and his keyboarding is passable, although he refuses to use spellcheck.

Hope springs eternal, and it’s all in a day’s work.


The author is an inactive Oregon and California attorney and a CPA. He is a former private practitioner and in-house counsel who filled a variety of roles in the corporate world, including outside auditor, CFO and controller of private and public corporations. A published columnist, Levy is currently working on several projects, including a book of conversations with his office mate, Cheddar.

© 2015 Bernard M. Levy

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