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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!
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