By Susan Brandzel
One of the great novelties of living on Bainbridge Island but working in Seattle is undoubtedly the ferry commute. And while it’s scenic and hands-free, still, it’s a schlep. Some savvy islanders have found a way to avoid the haul by opting to work someplace where fuzzy slippers can be part of the dress code: their own home.
Welcoming one client at a time to her airy and light mini-salon, native islander Lori Naon works as the owner of a home-based hair salon. “I wanted to create my own thing,” she said. “And I don’t have to answer to anyone!”
Her reasons for working from home are plentiful, but topping the list is the greater availability for her kids that it allows. Another notable benefit is the connections she’s able to create with her patrons in the intimate setting. “I’ve had the same clients for years. I love making people feel good and appreciated,” she said.
When asked what drawbacks she faces, Naon responded point-blank, “There are no downsides.” Psychiatrist Peter Lucas is much newer to the work-from-home model. Two-and-a-half years ago, after spending decades in a traditional health care setting, Lucas went cyber.
For his 3-hour to 6-hour shifts, Lucas sets up his laptop, microphone and a large screen, and “sees” psychiatric patients residing in nursing homes as well as hospitals. To Lucas, the benefits of working from home are straightforward.
“I don’t have to commute, I can run down to the kitchen and get a cup of coffee, or I can walk the dogs in the middle of the day,” he said. And although he acknowledged the arrangement can be isolating—there is no proverbial water cooler around which to chat with officemates—“I’m OK with it,” he said, “because most of the time, I enjoy being alone.”
Erica and Evan Saint Clair have also embraced their decision to work from home. The pair—who run two businesses out of their house and garage cite the time gained with their two young daughters as one of the main benefits of ditching the commute.
Their first venture, Journal Menu, generates bound workout diaries, originally created when the duo became CrossFit aficionados in Boston. The journals—inspired by a fitness-based cookbook that Erica created combined with Evan’s background in design and photography—allow athletes to document workouts while encouraging self-motivation.
Today, the Saint Clairs run the entire production from their garage. “We have a punch machine, a printer and a cutter,” Erica said. “We get up really early every morning and we stay up late every night. We source and ship everything ourselves.”
Journal Menu was just one of many enterprises Erica conceived while working on her Ph.D. in physics. But after deciding to step away from the academic rat race, she put her scientific prowess to work in another way, creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education curriculum business called Rosie Research.
With a grant in 2015 from the Awesome Foundation, Erica generated a program dubbed Edible Optics that is already integrated into Blakely Elementary’s kindergarten curriculum The program teaches the concept of absorption using Jell-O and light, and includes two laboratories, supplies, a lesson plan and parent/teacher guide.
The payoff for Evan and Erica is clear: abundant time together and with the kids. “I really feel like we have it all,” she said. “We are making our businesses work. And we have work-life balance.”
Increasing numbers of islanders are making their dream careers happen from home, including chefs, writers and even beer sellers. And when they live in a place like this, how can you blame them?
No Place Like Home
World headquarters can be as convenient as your own living room or kitchen table. Choosing to work from home and ditching the drive are Erica and Evan Saint Clair, who print, punch and bind their company’s fitness-based journals from their garage; Lori Naon, who coifs clients from her home-based hair salon; and Bainbridge psychiatrist Peter Lucas, who virtually visits with patients in nursing homes and hospitals from the comfort of his home.