Whenever I meet another fortunate soul who works at home, it takes about 3.2 seconds to chuckle together about the very best part of the situation -- working in our jammies. My daily work is delivered to me by DHL, and I don't think any DHL driver has ever seen me dressed (on the rare occasions he even sees me). My neighbors, I'm sure, assume that I am disabled to the point of being incapable of dressing myself, since I often toddle down the street to the mailbox at noon... still in my jammies. Actually, in the summer months, they should be grateful that I'm even wearing jammies, since my daytime attire is, shall we say, much flimsier.
I tried to provide quantitative data on the current number of home workers In the US, but, A) I don't do statistics since they intrinsically involve numbers, and B) the Department of Labor tables I did find were so minuscule I couldn't see them on the screen, let alone interpret them. I did find that in 2004 it was estimated that 20 million people worked at home, either as employees or in their own businesses, and I heard this morning on the Today show that the number is now estimated to be 40% of the work force.
That's a LOT of jammies!
If the clothing manufacturers were paying attention, we'd see a proliferation of comfy clothing designed for the work-at-home crowd -- something a tad more presentable than silk knit pajamas imprinted with little blue dogs. I suppose velour sweat pants with a matching jacket would do... but that's entirely too much like getting dressed for me.
When I was still playing the corporate executive game, I spent a LOT of money on business attire -- and I even remember budgeting 30 minutes each morning to "accessorize." Jesus! I still have all those scarves, necklaces, brooches and doodads... stuffed in a box, high in my closet. My only concession to accessories these days is to clean my glasses on alternate Tuesdays.
One of my sons recently joined the jammy brigade and rapidly discovered the blessings of working at home, although he is an employee, not an entrepreneur, and the dynamic is a bit different. He's tethered to his Blackberry, where I'm free to not answer the damn phone if I so choose. He is able to answer email while running household errands, but that wouldn't work for me since they make you turn off your cell phone in movie theaters. Yes, I sneak out to the movies as often as there's something worth viewing, (Charlie Wilson's War, for instance.)
I know that, for me, productivity is overwhelmingly greater working at home, but it also requires a bit more self-discipline than working in an office. There aren't the same distractions at home (15 people stopping by to say hi, bring you a donut or sit on your desk to bitch and gossip), but the distractions are there. For instance, my refrigerator is only 18 paces away, which is NOT a good thing. The nearest bathroom, however, is only nine feet from my desk, which saves, I'm sure, at least an hour a day in traveling time.
In the summer I get distracted by the LOUD chattering of magpies and jays in the oak tree next door, and in the winter the drama of wind and rain draws me away from my small office window to the wider vista from my living room. During last week's storm (you heard about it on national news) I counted each of the five billion oak leaves that sailed into my yard, then wondered where I could get sandbags if the rain didn't stop. (It did..)
The Internet, of course, is the biggest distraction -- but that's not limited to those working at home. In 2005, it was estimated that fooling around on the Internet cost American businesses $178 billion in lost productivity -- and certainly by now that number is even higher. That surely beats the numbers from previous decades of money lost around the water cooler.
I'll admit the Internet is my biggest downfall -- from email to blogging to stopping by a chat room, to just plain surfing. Since my income depends on meeting contractual deadlines, however, it's not the problem it may be for others... particularly employees. A business-owner friend recently installed stealth software and found one employee spending nearly six hours daily on Yahoo, and another employee playing Internet games a couple of hours each day -- or maybe I should say former employees.
Home workers do have genuine isolation to deal with, but some of us treasure that above all. Those who miss interaction manage to stay electronically connected with the outside world, and often stay more connected with their families, who are sometimes underfoot.
The lack of a daily commute is a huge all-around benefit to working at home. Maybe we who work in our jammies deserve a "green" tax credit for our smaller carbon footprints... or maybe not paying that $3.25/gallon price is reward enough. I'm down to one tank of gas a month, but then I enjoy atypical, official "hermit" status. My fuel consumption will be reduced further once spring hits, since I plan to take my granny cart and hike the two miles to the grocery store. I only hope I remember to change from my jammies to jeans.
Well, nice chatting with you. I have to start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, take a shower and put on fresh jammies and, oh yes, get to work.