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Copyright 1998, Attard Communications, Inc.

Business Know-How(tm)
Work-At-Home Survey Results
by Janet Attard

Statistics about the number of people working at home and how much money they make there tend to vary widely. The US Department of Labor (DOL) released figures in March 1998 that said there were 23.3 million people working at home in 1997. That report said that of that number, only 4.1 million were self-employed and only 3.6 million telecommuters were being paid for the hours they worked at home.

However, the market research firm IDC/LINK painted a somewhat different picture just a few months previous to the DOL report. In a report published at the end of December 1997, IDC/Link put the number who worked at home at 34.7 million. Of those, IDC/LINK reported 20.7 million home offices were used to earn income from either full-time or part-time self-employment.

Which set of statistics is correct? Or more specifically, which set of figures more accurately reflects the use of home offices by people who use online services to gather information about starting and running home offices and small businesses? Moreover, how do people who work at home benefit from the arrangement? And what are the drawbacks?

Here are some of the eye-opening findings of the Business Know-How Forum's 1998 Home Office Survey. The figures are based on results from the first 612 people who took the survey during the first week it was available online.

During that time, 415 of 612 people who took the survey indicated that they spent some or all of their time working at home. (The proportion of people who work at home is likely to be higher than in the general population because the survey was conducted in a section of America Online aimed at people interested in home office and small business information.)

Of that number, 69.1 percent indicated they ran one or more full or part-time businesses from their home office and 21.7 percent said they work as an employee in someone else's business.

Effect on Income
Contrary to the findings of the Department of Labor findings, our group of workers made money at home. In fact, 48.1 percent of the people who took the online survey indicated they made more money because they worked at home than they would have if they didn't work at home. Moreover, 25.5 percent of the work-at-homers said they made significantly more money working at home than they would have if they did not work at home.

Length of Work Week
Almost 57 percent of the people who said they are working at home are working 40 or more hours each week at all activities that produce income. One third of the survey takers who work at home spend a total of 51 or more hours a week at income-producing activities, and about 10 percent are working 70 or more hours a week.

Benefits and Drawbacks
If there's so much work going on, what benefits did our work-at-homers enjoy? Surprisingly given the number of hours each week our survey takers are working, time was cited as the number one advantage to working at home. In fact 72.7 percent chose more time or more time with their family as a benefit for working at home. While we didn't ask the question, one can surmise that at least some of the time-savings comes from not having to commute to work.

Next in importance (56 percent) was solving daycare problems. (Multiple answers were allowed for this question.) Only 8 individuals (1.9 percent) said there were no benefits to working at home.

Working at home isn't without its drawbacks however. The leading complaint about working at home (33.7 percent of our respondents) was the lack of health insurance benefits. Next most irksome (29.9 percent) was not knowing where the next job would come from. Both answers would reflect the high proportion of self-employed among those who took the survey. Twenty-six percent cited isolation as a drawback to working at home, and 20 percent found absolutely no drawbacks to working at home.

Comments A-Plenty!
Our survey takers gave us even more insight into the work-at-home scene in the comments section of the survey.

Among the more negative comments about work at home were these:

"It can be a pain when your spouse ridicules what you do and your kids think all you do is gab on the phone an swear a lot. Other than that, what a joy it is!"

"I started my home business from scratch. It's more difficult because nothing is established. You have to create it all. When you have an outside job working for an employer it's all there already. The idea, the plan, the materials, everything."

"I truly miss the energy of working with a team in an office."

" I find it difficult to draw a line between my home life and my work life, working from home. I find myself in a constant gray area running back and forth from the "office part" to the "home part" of my home, trying to manage both. The only thing I miss about having a traditional job is being able to "go home".

But there were far more people who had positive comments about working at home. For some it was a way to minimize or avoid the traumatic impact of layoffs and downsizing. For instance, Ray Delgadillo writes:

"After 18,1/2 years as a faithful employee, I was laid off. After 18,1/2 years I was worth TWO WEEKS severance pay! What an insult! I was one of the lucky ones that had already started a home based business part time. It has done well enough for me to not have to go look for other employment. Now I can stay at home and work my business full time and my income has already shown a significant increase! My suggestion to everyone out there, is to do something on the side, it doesn't matter what it is, just be prepared!"

Others however cited reduced stress, ability to be one's own boss, and more time for family as being important benefits of working at home. Here are some examples:

"Since I am a single mother of three children it is hard sometimes to make them understand that I need to work. But then there are tradeoffs. I am home and get kisses and hugs from my children when other mothers do not see there children. I also am there when they are sick."

Terry A. Horger from Corrales, NM, writes, "After having two children, I found myself becoming weary of the corporate world. I wanted the opportunity to spend more time with my children AND make decisions impacting my life. If I want to work, I do. If I don't want to work, I don't. If I want to go on a field trip with one of my children, I don't have to "get permission" from my boss. I am my boss."

Another individual wrote, "The advantages are that I don't have to deal with office politics, don't have to get dressed up every day (no pantyhose) and I can PICK who I want to work with. If I happen to have a bad experience with a client (which has only happened once in 5 years) I can simply finish the project, send my bill and never have to deal with them again."

But, perhaps the best testimonial to working at home was the comment from one individual who wrote:

"For me, working out of my home is the best thing I have ever done. It has allowed me to purchase my home and buy my dream car. I make more money now than I ever would have been able to working outside of my home. I have been working out of my home for 7 years."

Want more information? Visit the Business Know-How for facts about working at home, strategies for finding customers, and tips on talking your day-time boss into letting you telecommute.

About the author
Janet Attard is the owner of Attard Communications, Inc., which provides editorial content, online community and web development services. She is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  She can be reached at (631) 467-6826 or by email at attard@businessknowhow.com.

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