Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Working at Home: Utilities

Last week, I wrote about interruptions when working at home. This week I'm addressing another issue: negotiating with utilities. If you work in an office away from home, you are probably not the person who pays the bills for electricity, gas, water, phone, or trash or who negotiates with any service problems in the workplace. But if you work at home, these become partly a business expense and business use of time. Within the last week, we've had to negotiate the following utility challenges.

Electricity: The power went out last night for no apparent reason. We had to reset all the clocks. Not a huge deal. The only other power problem we've had was during 2001 when the power went out all the time during the workday because Enron was selling electricity out of state and then selling it back to the state of California. That actually created a lot of problems at work, especially when I worked for a company in Boston that had power and wondered what the heck I was doing out in Crazy California.

Propane: We have a clog in our propane line. This means there has been no hot water for a while, which means that we smell wonderful.

Water: Speaking of water, I spent 15 minutes this morning writing to the county to complain about giving a conditional use permit to a guy who has been illegally selling water from our community's water supply for three years. I'll have to attend a public hearing about this in August too. On work time.

Phone: I paid the phone bill late (totally my fault). Not real late (7 days), but late enough that two months charges were on the next bill as well as a disconnection warning. And my check appeared to have been mysteriously delayed in the mail. I had to negotiate with the phone company not to turn off the phone for one late payment.

Trash: Our trash collection company sold our account to another company, which wants us to sign a three-year service agreement. That's not going to happen. I don't value their service that much nor do I produce that much trash. In any case, it has to be negotiated on work time.

The point of my prolonged whine is not that this unfair---it's just how life is. But keep in mind that working at home provides any number of additional responsibilities which you don't necessarily have working in an away-from-home office. It took me a long time to realize that these were basically work responsibilities.