Imagine waking up unaided by an alarm clock, rolling out of bed, and beginning your workday while lounging, hair askew. Working from home takes many shapes. The pajama-clad putterer is almost never the reality. Instead, working remotely is an arrangement often born out of practical necessity and a desire for maximum productivity.
“My average workday is 10-12 hours, so it’s not like I’m being lazy,” explained Sioux Falls-based luthier Josh Rieck. “But I can do it in a more relaxed manner. I don’t have to rush to work or rush home.”
Rieck and wife Ashley have recently moved to a new house, which will be their second work-from-home environment. Previously, they lived above Josh’s shop. Now, as his business evolves from walk-in String Theory Luthiery to appointment-only J. Rieck Lutherie, the couple’s more secluded west Sioux Falls home will allow Josh to focus on instrument building with fewer distractions.
Josh, a self-professed workaholic, appreciates the flexibility working from home provides. It allows the couple’s pets to be part of his workday, which is essential for Eleanor, their anxiety-prone pit bull. The arrangement allows Ashley, a string artist and owner of Hatch 605, to work from home as well, when she leaves her day job managing Unglued in downtown Sioux Falls.
“It’s actually worked really well for our relationship,” she said. “There’s not that stress of ‘I’m going to run home to eat quick and then go back to the shop until midnight.’ We had that in our first apartment. Then when we finally moved above the shop, I would text Josh and say, ‘Dinner’s ready,’ and he would just come upstairs. Then he could work as late as he wants and I could come down and say goodnight. Now I don’t worry, either. If he was at the shop and didn’t come home before I went to bed, then I’d worry something happened, because the tools he’s working with are serious machines and can do serious damage. And of course, I automatically assume something bad has happened.”
Spearfish artist Dick Termes has worked from home almost exclusively for nearly 50 years. The world-renowned painter of fantastical spheres lives with famed puppeteer wife Markie Scholz in a whimsical village of geodesic domes, one of which is their home and another, mere steps away, is his studio. He agrees with the Riecks that for creative people who are often consumed by their work, staying on site is a good way to actually see one another.
“If I work away from my home, I never get home. I think it helps to see your family more by being at home, if you can control the situation enough so you get to work. I married the right lady. I spend more time with my family being here in this environment,” he said. “When my kids were little, they’d run over to the studio and say, ‘Dad it’s time to quit.’ So I’d know when it was time to go play with them. My wife, I think, made it the case that they knew this is what I did for a living, but then at five o’clock it was time to play.”
Some who work from home don’t have the luxury of seclusion. Jamie Scarbrough manages Zandbroz Variety in downtown Sioux Falls. Her husband, Jeff Danz, and his brother own the store and another in Fargo. The couple also owns the Phillips Avenue building and live in a 2,000 square foot loft above the store.
The advantages of the arrangement, Scarbrough says, are numerous. If they are needed in the store, which is open seven days a week, she and Jeff are literally a flight of stairs away.
“We also find that having to not commute to work is fantastic. I don’t have to figure that into my getting up time. I can push it a little bit,” she added. “It also allows us to be open on snow storm days when other people can’t. I can come down and work on things and be open for people who are stuck, because the planes aren’t leaving.”
There are less pleasant aspects, as well. Strangers have been known to wander upstairs from the store and end up in their home.
“That’s always fun,” she laughed. “‘I thought this was the soda fountain.’ That closed 10 years ago, but people are still always looking for it.”
Unplugging can be the biggest challenge of all when, as a business owner, work is never done. Scarbrough explains that it’s essential to schedule oneself as though you were getting in the car with your briefcase. “Trying to have some separation from work is hard. When we unlock the doors and are open for business, it’s hard to have any time for yourself. Even if you’re supposedly off the clock, you’re always on call.”
Jim and Nancy Schade, who own and operate Volga’s Schadé Vineyard and Winery, learned early on that the quality of life they wanted depended on drawing a hard line between work and family time.
“It’s extremely important to establish business hours, and have those business hours clearly posted at various places,” Nancy said, adding, “No matter who it is – your next door neighbor, your best friend – you have to say, ‘These are the hours the winery is open,’ Otherwise you don’t have a personal life.”
Schadé’s tasting room and gift loft adjoin the couple’s home. Jim explains that they try to emulate the welcoming, immersive experience they had while living in northern California.“We know most South Dakotans will never make it to Napa Valley, so here they can see the grapes grow, pick them, and learn what it’s like to make wine.”
Nancy says, as a result, many visitors to the picturesque 10-acre property get starry eyes, imagining a laid-back, pastoral life as a winemaker. “We have lots of young couples who walk through the vineyard and they think, ‘This is the most romantic place in the whole wide world.’ It is and it can be and we love it. We’re very proud of how successful the business has been, but to really study the business and know what you’re saying yes to is really important. On the surface it looks like a piece of cake – this is a beautiful place to be, and you get to control your own hours.”
But, she adds, it’s not only work to keep the winery going, she and Jim have remember to make time for each other. “When you’re working with your spouse, you have to build in that time to get away from the business and maintain your marriage relationship, just like you maintain your business relationship. It’s very important to be intentional about maintaining the marriage relationship and keeping it separate from the business relationship. Statistics are scary.”
During certain times of year, living on site isn’t just a matter of convenience for the winemakers, it’s essential. “There’s so many things that happen at all times of the day with making wine,” said Jim. “When we’re bottling or filtering wine, filtering takes a long time, so I can start, go do something else, come back. When we harvest grapes, they have to be processed the same day they’re picked, so it goes way into the middle of the night. To be able to grab a nap or grab some food, it’s so handy.”
Termes believes working remotely is the future, for more than just creatives. “Everybody’s on the computer, and 90 percent of jobs can be done that way. I think it’s going to be really cool. But you have to think about how you’re going to separate out that work and living space.”
He recommends setting up a dedicated workspace, and not at the kitchen table. Better is a room with a door that can shut out distractions – and at the end of the workday, shut away visual reminders of one’s vocation. Better yet, he says, is a space outside the house, even a few steps away, where work is physically contained. It’s a separation he admits is tough. “It’s not only my profession, it’s my love. It’s much more than a job and for many artists, that’s true, too.”
That often means a blurred line, despite people’s best efforts. But, the ability to pursue one’s passion is a tempting trade off.
“I love it. I love the lifestyle that it provides,” said Ashley. “I love the flexibility. I had the 8 to 5 and it was killing me. I know our lifestyle gives some people anxiety – mainly my parents – but it works for us. It works for the artist brain, I think. There’s something to be said about living the life you were meant to lead and being able to make the most of that time.” ●
ADVICE: MAKING WORKING FROM HOME WORK
“I think you’ve really got to think about ‘what ifs.’ We’ve grown so fast, we have to build a new building every other year. You have to ask, ‘What if it goes nuclear, or what if it fails?’” – Jim Schade, owner, Schadé Vineyard and Winery
“If people have the right situation, working from home is great. If it’s in the kitchen, that’s not great. You have to have your own space and your own room. There are so many things that can lead you astray at home. There has to be a time of day you stop, because your work is your work.” – Dick Termes, Artist
“There’s this great book by Steven Pressfield called The War of Art. He’ll only write for three or four hours a day, but he writes every day at the same time, and he writes until he’s got nothing else to say. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not, but he sits down every day and does it. If you’re going to be a creative person who’s self-employed, you can’t wait to be inspired. You have to show up every day and do the work. Some days you slog through it and don’t get anything out of it, but you did it. That’s a book I’d recommend to people interested in working from home.” – Josh Rieck, owner, J. Rieck Lutherie
“Make sure that you have a set time so you can get your work done, because it’s easy to get distracted when you’re at home. And punch out when you can. Because we are here, it’s hard not to say, ‘I should go and work on that.’ Then you end up being here all the time,”
– Jamie Scarbrough, manager, Zandbroz Variety
Working at Home
[it’s not just artists & entrepreneurs]
1 in 5 Americans work from home.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, the average telecommuter is a 49-year-old college graduate, working for a company with 100+ employees, earning about $58,000 a year.
Companies that offer remote work options experience significantly lower employee turnover (over 50 percent less), according to a study published by Stanford University.
77% of remote workers report increased productivity, while 52% are less likely to take time off, according to a 2015 survey by ConnectSolutions.