What if the Entire World Worked From Home?

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This post was selected as No. 6 in the September 26, 2011 Best of Money Carnival hosted by Boomer and Echo. Be sure to head on over and read all of the top articles!

In recent years, working from home has emerged as a very popular, attractive, and enticing working arrangement. While there are probably many reasons that working at home is so enticing, I believe three are key:

  • First, you can set your own schedule. 
  • Two, you can wear whatever you want and not have to worry about a daily commute, both of which are enticing options!
  • Third, you can potentially spend more time with your family and get more done around the house since you are there the whole day instead of away.

It seems like every day, I encounter additional people that are either shooting for or have already attained this goal of having a home-based business. Indeed, since I started blogging in January of 2010, two other Yakezie Network bloggers I have become acquainted with have made their blog their full-time work. Additionally, I am constantly bombarded with advertisements for new “legitimate” home-based business opportunities both online and on TV.

As I attempt to process and make sense of these inputs indicating a shift in favoring working at home, several questions come to my mind. First, with all this work at home “hype,” I’m curious to know just how many people are actually working from home these days. Second, what would happen if the entire (or the majority of the) workforce worked from home? Would this even be possible? And finally, would I want to work from home?

Looking at answers to these questions will be the subject of today’s post. So, let’s get started.

How many people currently work from home?

Advances in telecommunication technology in recent years have definitely made it possible for many people to work at home, if they are offered the opportunity. Indeed, with the advent of phone conferencing and free conference call services, the occurrence of having all meeting members in the same physical room has even become rare in normal office settings. So, needless to say, I am convinced that people can effectively work from home. However, I was curious to find out just how many people actually are working at home these days.

In searching around the Internet, I found the statistics below about the “work at home economy.”

  • A new home business is started every 11 seconds! Wow! I’m sure about 90% of these don’t last long (Enterpaige.com).
  • 50 million workers in the US (40% of the workforce – excluding self employed individuals) work at home at least part of their work week. 
  • However, only 3 million work from home full-time, including self-employed individuals (TeleWork Research Network).
  • There are approximately 18 million home based businesses in the United States, and they generate $427 Billion per year in revenue (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Home business scams and fraudulent opportunities earn $750 million each year (WorkingHomeGuide.com). That’s quite a lot of money! I know I’ve been duped in to trying my fair share of home businesses that didn’t turn out to be anything useful.

From these statistics, I personally gather a couple of takeaway messages.

First, if I am looking for a home-based business, I need to be super careful because there are many businesses that do not last past the first year and also many scams out there offering “lucrative” opportunity, where none actually exists. Second, I think it’s important to take note of the statistic above indicating only 3 million people work from home full-time. This means that only 1% of Americans have this full-time work at home situation. Therefore, I need to realize that it will not be easy to readily obtain. On the other hand of course, it is becoming VERY common for employers to allow their employees to work at home part of the week in “flexible work arrangements.”

Could the entire workforce work from home? What would be the effects?

So, in the investigation in the previous section, we actually found out that despite the “hype,” not all that many people are working from home full time (only about 1% of the US population). Given this relatively low current number of full-time home workers, I figured it would make for an interesting thought exercise to hypothesize what society or the economy would be like if we had the majority (80-100%) of the workforce working from home full-time.

Thoughts on feasibility of the entire workforce working at home

Personally, I don’t feel that it would ever be possible for the majority (80-100%) of workers to work from home because it would be difficult/impossible for service-related workers (restaurants, dentist offices, etc) and factory workers to perform their job function from home since their job either involves servicing clients directly or interfacing with expensive machinery only present at the work-place.

Impact of the elimination of the daily commute if the entire workforce worked at home

However, if a large majority of the population did work at home full-time, it would eliminate the costly daily commute that many workers endure. Commuting in this manner can be costly both from a monetary standpoint (in regards to gasoline expenditures) as well as from a time-cost standpoint (many people I used to work with drove 1 hour each way to work and back. Talk about wasted time!).

If people did not commute each day, it would free up people’s day and hopefully make them more productive at their job. According to a recent article by careers.guardian.co.uk, workers in Great Britain drive an average of 4.5 million total hours per day. Additionally, since people are purchasing less fuel, one would hope that the demand and cost of gasoline prices would decrease. This would be a benefit for everyone! In fact, a recent article by WorkingHomeGuide.com indicated that if 40% of the current workforce were to work from home, oil import demand would be decreased by 37%, a pretty significant amount!

Elimination of at-work social networks and friendships

One of the reasons that I am slightly against the work-from-home full-time idea is that it would effectively eliminate the camaraderie that exists between teams of people that work together frequently face-to-face on projects at the workplace. I’ll address this issue further in the following section.

Elimination of a distinction between work-life and home-life

Another thing that would be effectively eliminated if everyone were to work at home is a separation between home life and work life. I’ll address this more in the following section as well.

Would I want to work at home?

As you might imagine, since this blog is called My Personal Finance Journey, I often like to share my opinions on how the topics I discuss either do or don’t apply to my situation. In the case of working from home, I would have to say that I would be in the “camp” of not wanting to work at home full-time.

On one hand, it would be nice to be around my possessions and house all day and have access to home-cooked food all of the time. However, I think that after a while, I would get a case of cabin fever and feel the need to move about and explore somewhere new for a portion of the day. I suspect that this would be the case with me since this often happens if I have to stay home for several days on the weekend working on projects for graduate school. In general, I feel that a mix of scenery is good for me.

Second, I would not want to work from home because I enjoy having at least some form of separation between work and home. In my previous job, they actually gave me a laptop that I could use for work purposes. And, since I wasn’t able to even access external email accounts (Gmail, Outlook, etc), it was very easy to stay focused while at work because my computer used for family, friends, and blogging related issues would be waiting for me at home. Furthermore, being able to actually go to a different physical location makes this separation even easier to create. For example, if I were to ever run my own business that technically could be operated out of the home, I would most likely look for a small office space somewhere away from the house that would enable me to create this work-home life separation.

Third (and maybe most importantly), I would not want to work at home full time because some of my closest connections and friendships have emerged from relationships I’ve formed at the workplace. In my opinion, the connection you feel with a team of people working on a project at the workplace is very valuable and something that I wouldn’t want to lose.


Today, we’ve explored that although working from home is a popular concept or dream for a lot of people, only a small group have actually made this a reality. However, if working from home is something you’re shooting for, I believe it is very possible to make it happen with a little perseverance. After all, as we’ve seen, there are numerous time and cost-saving benefits that come with this type of working situation.

Thanks for reading!

How about you all? Have you ever thought about working from home? Are you currently working towards the goal of this work situation? What do you think the world would be like if EVERYONE worked from home?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1026/3169836251_b62772064d.jpg


    1. I don't know that I would be too interested to work from home. I like the idea of 'going somewhere' each day. I think being at home too much would really be sort of sad. Maybe if I worked close to home with friends in an office or something.
      My recent post Would QE3 Make Stock Prices Go Up?

    2. I have the opportunity to work from home some days for my current job but not all the time. I have often wondered what it would be like to work from home all of the time. I agree with your assessment. It is important to have a separation from work and home. You really could get cabin fever and become less productive. I think the best scenario is a bit of both.
      My recent post Skip the Gym, Sweat at Home 2

      • Agreed Miss T. If you work at home only some of the time, it remains sort of like a “treat” that we can look forward too. I know that's how it was for me when I worked at home in my last job on several snow days. Felt nice to not have to go in to the office!
        My recent post Was The “Lost Decade” Really Lost For Investors?

    3. I don't think it is possible for the “entire world” to work from home. Some people do not want the concept of working from home because they enjoy the social relationships with their colleagues. Furthermore, we have the health services and public safety personnel who need to be physically present when performing their jobs. Can you imagine your wife giving birth to your baby while the OB-GYN is watching her on the computer monitor at home and giving instructions to push? LOL.
      My recent post Best 401k Moves

      • That puts a funny picture in my mind Robert! My mom actually does telehealth treatment research (sort of a lesser version of what you described – more for treating minor things), and the technology seems to be good, but not quite to the point of delivering a baby over the computer monitor!
        My recent post Was The “Lost Decade” Really Lost For Investors?

    4. More people working from home would certainly be better for the environment, for obvious reasons. Fewer buildings would be needed to provide a workplace and less fuel would be used in commuting.

      I currently work almost exclusively from home, but that's only until my grant funding runs out. Hopefully the things I've been working on become profitable soon, and I can continue doing so!

    5. On the other hand, I'm inclined to agree with FinancialSuccess. I often leave my home to set up at a coffee shop for a few hours and work from there. But the reality is, you can have a mix!

    6. For many years I worked from home. I think I would like to work at home some of the time. I like getting out and interacting with people to do it 100%.
      My recent post Am I Training for a Race?

    7. Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      I'm quitting my job this week! Granted, I haven't hit the fairytale happy end for “working from home” but it's another step. 🙂 I wondered this same question though- what if everyone approached work in the same fashion, is it possible?

      I may not work from home forever, but for now freelancing is my best option 🙂

    8. I've been working from home for 5 years. I work part time. When I had kids at home I had no choice, but now that all my kids are in school full time I found a co-working spot where I can go when I need to get out of the house. Love! It helps have that separation between work and home that you were talking about. It helps me be present at home instead of always being drawn into work. “Oh, I'm just going to do this one last thing!” I know that I will have a set time where I can crank the work stuff out.
      My recent post Beating Procrastination

      • Thanks for sharing Ashley! I've often been curious about those co-working roles where two people share job responsibilities. It seems like it would be too easy for the 20 hour work week to become 30! Did you ever have that problem?
        My recent post Was The “Lost Decade” Really Lost For Investors?

    9. The separation from work is a big thing for me. I think my ideal balance would be to work from home maybe part time; things weren't so great about previously working at home were footing my own phone bill and making it so much easier to waste time…
      My recent post Link love (Powered by the written word and calls to action)

    10. Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      I'm quitting my job this week! Granted, I haven't hit the fairytale happy end for “working from home” but it's another step. 🙂 I wondered this same question though- what if everyone approached work in the same fashion, is it possible?

      I may not work from home forever, but for now freelancing is my best option 🙂

    11. The separation from work is a big thing for me. I think my ideal balance would be to work from home maybe part time; things weren't so great about previously working at home were footing my own phone bill and making it so much easier to waste time…

      • I agree Eemusings. I think if I worked from home full time, I'd get way too distracted trying to clean up the house, walk the dogs, etc.
        My recent post Was The “Lost Decade” Really Lost For Investors?

    12. Funny about Money says:

      Wow! Nice post that brings up some HUGE issues!

      I've worked from home in some capacity — either part- or full-time — for about 40 years. There's no reason a person whose job consists mostly of sitting in front of a computer can't be sitting in a home office, at least several days a week. On my last f/t job, I telecommuted two or three days a week and then spent the other days in the office networking and riding herd on my underlings, who also did a fair amount of telecommuting. I had a weekly meeting, so they all had to come in to the office, participate in planning, and report their progress.

      This strategy breaks down some of the isolation and allows a supervisor to keep an eye on how the work is going; however, it does require the employer to maintain some sort of meeting and office space, which defeats the purpose of eliminating that kind of overhead.

      Today, as a self-employed business entrepreneur, I will say that having your office four steps from your bedroom has its drawbacks. I sat down in front of the computer at 4:30 this morning. It's 7 a.m. and I still haven't had time to brush my teeth or jump in the shower. The work/life separation issue is vast, and no matter how hard you try to address it consciously, it's almost impossible to overcome.

      If you do work at home, it's crucial to join business and volunteer groups, and attend their meetings regularly. Otherwise, you turn into a mushroom.
      My recent post Real Estate: That light at the end of the tunnel may not be a train

      • Great input Funny about Money! Sometimes I feel like that mushroom that needs to get outside more when I'm catching up on blog stuff on Saturday after not being able to write much during the week. Often, it will be 5 pm, and I'll still be in my PJ's! haha

        Also – you make an interesting point about being able to work from home at least part time if most of the job is over the computer. However, the thing that struck me when thinking about this is that it is almost entirely supervisor-specific. If, for example, your boss likes to have his or her team around during the day, working at home wouldn't be very possible.
        My recent post Was The “Lost Decade” Really Lost For Investors?

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