The joy of office comradery


Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

That’s the way this summer has felt for me — and not entirely because it decided to pour rain for most of August. All of the sudden, my maternity leave is over and here I am!

I’m hoping that not many of you noticed that I was even gone. That was the plan, anyway. I was to hire a crack freelance editor (Carolyn Nielsen) to come in and work with our staff reporters and interns and layout the paper for the summer, and I would get to stay home with my newborn son, who my family and I welcomed to the world in May.

And what fun it was to get my BBJ in the mail every month! It gave me a fresh perspective on what we do, as I flipped through the pages. Although I attended the monthly planning sessions (I just couldn’t completely stay away, of course), I was just another subscriber when it came to the end result. It was fun to see how everything came together. I am pleased, and proud of the job Carolyn and my staff did.

One of the interesting outcomes of the summer was also how easily it was for me to transfer some of my work from the office to my home. The BBJ takes a look at some different work environments this issue (page 12) and also gauges the temperature of the local commercial leasing market (the real estate story on page 27), and both of these stories resonated with me a bit this month. I found that working from home might be easier than one thinks with the technology available. I was able to take my baby, my cell phone and my Mac to nearly any cafe in the city and get a couple of hours of work done while he napped.

But even though telecommuting has become more and more popular, I’m not sure it’s really for me. I have several friends who work almost entirely from home these days, whereas they were in the office 40 hours a week less than a year ago. Some of the benefits are they don’t have to spend money on gas getting to work and they can usually concentrate better away from the ringing phones.

I have found that working from home does have its drawbacks, however. Besides the fact that there are plenty of distractions (like dishes to wash and kids to play with), for me the biggest issue is the isolation. I enjoy working in a team environment with the friendly banter and comradery that comes with putting out a newspaper. It can be downright goofy at times, and it can also be challenging and inspiring and motivating to have others to bounce ideas off of.

So while the lesson I learned is that I can get more done out of the office than I thought, I’m not sure that I really want to. I’m one of those lucky people who enjoy coming to work, and even though I miss my little one during the day, I have the guilty pleasure of coming into a fun office environment (and really, my son seems to be better entertained by the small posse of three year olds that is running around making faces at him every morning).

It’s nice to be away for a while to get a new perspective and take care of things. But it’s always nice to come back, too.


Vanessa Blackburn is the editor and publisher of the Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at

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