Case Study: Paradise Found

With Hawaii's tourist-driven economy buffeted by Japanese recession and little bolstered by the current U.S.

With Hawaii's tourist-driven economy buffeted by Japanese recession and little bolstered by the current U.S. boom, many locals are migrating to the mainland seek to better job opportunities. But Maui resident Randy Carp taps into the mainland boom every day via the phone lines running beneath the Pacific. Her office is a cottage in the lush valley of Haiku—"It's absolutely quiet here, except for the birdsong and the falling branches that crash down into the jungle periodically"—and her sole office mate is Tashi, a black cat whose workspace is a sarong-draped box on Carp's desk.

Carp, a systems analyst, fell into telecommuting during the last recession. "I began working as a consultant in 1989. My second client's company had just been through major downsizing. My skills were needed, but it wasn't a great moment to have a new face show up and pick an empty office." What began as practical necessity became a viable working option: She's telecommuted for nearly 4 years out of the past 10, currently contracting with a Fortune 100 company for between $65 and $85 an hour.

Her office equipment is high-tech but not particularly extravagant: She gets by with an iMac, a fax machine, and two phone lines. (She recommends paying extra for ergonomic office furniture.) One of Carp's biggest challenges is finding the necessary mind-set to work at home: "When I started, I was told about a fellow who left every morning and walked clockwise around his block, then back in his front door. When he finished his day's work, he left again and walked home, this time counterclockwise. It was his ritual to mark the difference between working at home and being at home. You should track your time religiously, if only to convince yourself that you're getting in a full day's work. I'm far more productive at home, in fact, because there are many fewer distractions."

Even when that means syncing her schedule with mainland office hours. "The end of daylight saving time helps; I'm only two hours behind [the West Coast] now. Telecommuting from nearer would be easier, but I wouldn't have a mango tree outside."

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