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Cabin Office Considerations

Is working from your getaway right for you?
By Jeff Wozer
Published: September 9, 2011
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WHO NEEDS A CUBICLE? – When the view out your "office window" is this good, going to work is never a chore, but it may be more complicated than you think.
There’s good reason why you don’t find general stores in cabin country advertising night crawlers, ice-cold beer and inkjet printers. Transitioning from a corporate cubicle with whiteboards to a cabin office with antler accessories is not for everyone. Like shucking a Chesapeake oyster, it’s harder than you think.
    In the mind it’s a slam-dunk. And why not? Soothing visions of conducting business from a cabin window overlooking a dew-covered meadow thick with wild raspberry patches, while songbirds chorus from the surrounding hardwood forest, seem idyllic; the ultimate work setting, even for Type-A personalities. But in truth, it’s a difficult leap, laden with unexpected challenges.
    The key is to not rush into it like some ill-advised teenage marriage, wedded to the idea rather than the reality. Give it some serious thought. Weigh the pros and cons. Or better yet, consider the following:

1. Is your skin thick enough to handle second-guessing from fellow workers and embedded city-types? They may not say it directly, but upon first seeing your cabin office they will imply it with the universal quip, “You working or writing the next great American novel?” From experience, I have learned to deflect this tiresome jab by countering with, “No. That’s far too ambitious. I thought I’d just write the next great Norwegian novel instead.”  

2. Depending on the remoteness of your cabin, ask yourself, “Can I cope without a cell phone?” I, upon moving into my cabin office, championed using cell phone service only. But this quickly changed when I discovered that my north face location on a pine-thick ridge at 8,524 feet in the Colorado Rockies rivaled only the nethermost recesses of Tennessee’s Cumberland Caverns for the absolute worst cell phone reception in North America.
    Unless I stood motionless, bent at a 72-degree angle by the left post on the front deck, I was incommunicado. The slightest move would interrupt service, leading to awkward conversations with important clients:
    “I’m about to lose you for a few seconds. I'm going to have to call you right back.”
    “Are you driving through
a tunnel?”
    “No, waving a mosquito from my shin.”

3. Can you tell a good lie when late for an important conference call? In the world of business there are only a few excuses for being tardy that all participants understand: stalled in traffic, a delayed flight, a sick child. But few, if any, high-powered business types, especially those in city locations, can or will empathize with, “Sorry I missed the call on that $2 million contract, but I was chasing a chipmunk out of the petunia garden.”

4. Are you okay with ditching the cabin kitsch for a modern workspace or office? That pine stump desk chair may perfectly coordinate with the cabin’s rustic ambience, but it is not conducive for work. You want something that’s ergonomic and comfortable, that will keep you focused on your job rather than on wondering why you harbor an insatiable hankering for those Keebler cookies.  
    Avoiding cabin kitsch is especially imperative if you conference with city clients via Skype. Many city people’s idea of rustic is a car without cup holders. They have no understanding of cabin culture. And especially not for whimsical, homespun desk accessories. Consequently, they may react negatively to seeing their multi-million dollar contract pulled out from under a “Bear in the Outhouse” paperweight, or from a converted wicker creel file basket.

5. And, ultimately, you must ask yourself, “Can I handle the absence of office camaraderie?” This is the most unanticipated hurdle, shocking many with the speed in which working alone loses its glow. For, as Lisa Simpson once astutely observed, “Solitude never hurt anyone. Emily Dickinson worked alone, and she wrote the most beautiful poetry the world has even known … then went crazy as a loon.”

Jeff Wozer operates out of an A-Frame cabin in the Colorado Rockies at 8,524 feet.
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