Lew Sanborne’s office in his Davenport home is a cozy mix of warm wood furnishings, lots of books, framed photos and personal items that reflect what’s special to him.
Yet the vice president for Enrollment Management with Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a Cedar Rapids firm, is quick to point out that his “real office” is a backpack containing his laptop computer, power cord and a mobile hotspot. As an increasing number of Americans are doing, Sanborne can plug in and set up shop anywhere.
Sanborne, former professor and dean of the College for Professional Studies at St. Ambrose University, travels extensively in his current position, visiting college campuses for assessments and delivery of strategic enrollment plans.
But when he returns home to write his reports, it’s to the second-floor room that was once a bedroom to sons David and Tommy at different times and that became his home office in 2008.
He and his wife, Debbie, who teaches general music, music history and is accompanist for the University Chorale and Chamber singers at St. Ambrose, looked for just the right furniture for the home office. It includes an L-shaped desk arrangement, a large hutch and matching bookshelves. A bamboo floor replaced carpeting that was once in the room. Wood blinds complete the look.
Lew Sanborne acknowledges that working from home is probably not for everybody.
“In a regular office environment, you can always get up, wander around and get feedback,” he said. “Part of it is knowing how much you need other people.”
He said his frequent travels and phone meetings with his professional team of about a dozen full-time and associate consultants fulfill that need for him. Between traveling and work at home, he estimates he puts in from 50-60 hours a week on the job.
While at home in Davenport, Sanborne said he keeps regular hours in his office, beginning his day with 10 miles on his exercise bike. He tries to be out of his office by 5 p.m., although conversations with people in Western time zones could alter that.
Occasionally, one of the three household cats will wander in to keep him company. The couple is still feeling the loss of their dog, Pepper, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Pepper, who passed away in 2015, was a constant companion in Sanborne’s home office.
Sanborne works without the distractions of social media, television or music.
“I like music for listening to, not as background,” he said.
The most important factors to the success of a home office?
“A decent desk and chair and reliable internet service.”
At this point, he says, “I can’t imagine going back” to a traditional office setting. “I have so much discretion over my work life.
“There are a ton of perks,” he adds with a laugh. “I’m doing laundry right now.”