Most American workers still commute from their homes to jobs in factories and offices. But an increasing number stay at home, working out of their kitchens, attics, dens, garages and basements.
These workers either are running their own small businesses or are working part time at home for their regular employers.According to Link Resources, a New York-based market research firm, almost 10 million men and women work at home today, running their own enterprises, while another 15.5 million persons do part-time work at home for others.
These figures show that full- and part-time at-home workers represent almost 20 percent of the nation's overall work force.
Link Resources predicts that by the year 2000, such workers will represent one-third of the work force.
A fact sheet distributed by the Small Business Administration in cooperation with Apple Computer Inc., says, "Every day, people are striking out and achieving economic and creative independence by turning their skills into dollars. Garages, basements and attics are being transformed into the corporate headquarters of the newest entrepreneurs - home-based businesspersons. And with today's rising demand for service-oriented businesses and (in the light of) recent technological advances, the opportunities seem to be endless."
According to Thomas E. Miller, director of a "National Work at Home Survey" conducted by Link Resources, a number of factors figure in the rising work-at-home trend:
- There's an overall trend in the country to smaller businesses. They typically start within the home, and when they expand to outside quarters the owners often hire full-time or part-time employees who work out of their homes.
- "Baby boomers" are establishing families and tend more and more to work out of the house so as to spend more time with spouse and children.
- Dual career couples, in a bid to balance home and job lives, are starting their own home-based enterprises.
- More women are starting home-based businesses as second-income sources, or they're working at home during maternity leaves.
Modern communications technology permits, and encourages, the creation of business operations outside the traditional office or factory. Personal computers, mo-dems, telephones and printers also allow persons with pressure-cooker jobs and workaholics to put in extra hours at night and on weekends.
A few employers even are arranging to permit employees to work full time at home, their operations connected electronically to the office. As part of an experimental project undertaken by California, 150 state employees have been trained to do their jobs at home. Another 100 office managers have been trained to supervise the at-home workers.
The immediate objective of this experiment is to reduce traffic, pollution and energy consumption in major urban areas. But the concept may catch on elsewhere amd even expanded into computerized work stations, easing long commuting distances to central offices.