The Best Sort of Homework


Polly Robinson, KP News

Dan Bassett, co-proprietor of Mirabella Farm in Longbranch. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

People often dream of working from home; stay in your jammies, tea in hand, hair styled by pillows, fuzzy slippers on your feet and a loving dog (or indifferent cat) snuggled beside you—all as you earn money. You set your own hours and answer the phone (or not) as it pleases you. 

While some of that may be true, rarely does it all happen at once. As is often the case, reality is more prosaic.

Dan Bassett, who runs Mirabella Farm with his wife, Rika, and their 4-year-old daughter, Rosie, was laid off just as he was relocating to the KP in August 2015. He spent months applying to various IT positions in Seattle and found that “invariably when the potential employers realized that I lived so far out of the city, they didn’t think that amount of commute would work and moved on to other candidates,” he said. Luckily for Bassett, U.S. Bank had a different model.

The biggest challenge Dan has as an information security engineer working from home is getting into the work mindset and avoiding the distractions that being at home can bring. “For example, if I find myself on a long conference call at 8 a.m., I may wind up down in the barn milking my cow,” he said. “Luckily, my wireless headset has fantastic reception.” 

Being home all day means that he gets to be with his family all of the time, which can be a mixed blessing. There are times when he needs to concentrate on work “but I have a 4-year-old that wants my full attention, too,” he said. 

The pros outweigh the cons, however; not wasting gas to commute and avoiding the stress of sitting in I-5 traffic for hours are just two. Considering the delays a single-car accident caused on Key Peninsula Highway weeks ago, those are considerable benefits. “I can say without a doubt that I’m better for it,” Bassett said.

Dan Bassett’s home office has few visitors outside the farm family. Photo: Polly Robinson, KP News

The biggest benefit for Bassett is living in a wonderful place and doing work he enjoys. He is grateful for U.S. Bank’s work-from-home policy. A typical day begins with logging into a remote data center, spending some time on the phone with his manager, then responding to email or attending virtual meetings. Most of what he does is independent work, but he does have means of collaboration, including email, telephone and instant messaging. “My team is very geographically diverse,” he said. “My manager is in California, two peers are in Oregon, and another is on the East Coast. My employer is in the Midwest, so I keep Central time hours, which is fantastic in the summer because I finish work by 3 p.m., leaving me plenty of time to go for a swim in Jackson Lake with the family.”

Bassett does miss the camaraderie of working directly with colleagues. “There really is no substitute for standing around a white board and gesticulating wildly while someone draws diagrams and flowcharts,” he said. He also has far more formal “meetings” than before. “When I worked in an office, people would just stop by to discuss issues, but now that we are all remote, people feel the need to schedule times to talk,” he said.

Telecommuting has become more commonplace as companies realize the value in reducing the overhead that comes with not having to provide office space for people. It also puts fewer people on the road and greatly expands the talent pool beyond the local area, Bassett said.

Telecommuting relies heavily on internet access and Dan says he’s fortunate to have the reliable business-class connection that Wave offers. “My only complaint is that they can’t seem to get their act together regarding IPv6 (the newer internet protocol Version 6, launched in 2012, used by computers to communicate over the internet). It’s 2018, folks! This is where I hope someone from Wave reads the Key Pen News,” he said.

The Key Peninsula occasionally loses power or internet connection, sometimes for days at a time. Bassett informs his manager and waits it out. “I think only once have I ever been desperate enough to keep working that I dragged my generator out of the barn to get back online.”