Most people envision stay-at-home workers to be comfortably dressed in yoga pants and T-shirts, waking at 10 a.m. and logging off to get a manicure whenever they want. And they're right. Stay-at-home workers can do all of this, and studies show that they may also have excellent productivity, lower stress and a greater work-life balance.
A study conducted by Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, says that the number of people working from home grew by about 6 percent per year between 2000 and 2010. Sixty-seven percent of employees were allowed occasional-work-from-home status in 2014, according to a study by the Families and Work Institute, up from 50 percent in 2008. So with more companies allowing employees a work-from-home option, whether full-time or sporadically, you may find greater opportunities to work remotely for your company, as your own boss with a reputable work-from-home opportunity or as a freelancer. (Research work-from-home opportunities well, as there are a lot of scams out there that can drain you of startup money and put your personal information at risk.)
And you may wish to work from home as a side job in addition to your regular job. David Lindahl, author of "The Six-Figure Income" says that you can make extra money beyond your main job. "You can do so by thinking small, (such as) being a 'micromanufacturer and micromarketer,'" says Lindahl. Those two official-sounding titles apply to work-from-home jobs such as having an Etsy store, fulfilling your creativity and giving you an income-delivering online store of your own.
If the idea of having no commute, making your own hours and dressing comfortably sounds appealing, keep the following pros and cons of stay-at-home work in mind.
*The Benefits of Being a Stay-at-Home Worker
--No commute. The two hours you used to spend driving to and from work each day -- perhaps each way -- can now be put to better use, increasing your productivity and profit. Plus, you'll eliminate those dicey bad-weather drives, and their stressors, from your life. "When I started working from home, I decided to use that hour in the morning that used to be my work commute going to the gym for my daily workouts," says Dan Hammonton, who has newly entered the remote workforce.
--The ability to make your own hours. If you're a morning person, you may find yourself ultra-productive at 6 a.m., using your natural circadian rhythms to maximize your energy and efficiency, stopping work at 3 p.m. when your energy levels decrease. The freedom to make your own hours also gives you time to spend with your kids and family, and get to doctor's appointments during the week. Your weekends are then freer for your enjoyment, not jammed with to-dos that didn't get done during the week. Again, work-life balance and time for family on the weekends is a big plus.
--Quiet time. With no co-workers interrupting your workflow, you can be more efficient with your work tasks.
--Less stress. Without interruptions, without a stressful commute, without the tension of missing family time, working from home has the ability to reduce your work stress. A 2011 study from Staples found that home workers experience 22 percent less stress.
--You're there for your dependents. If you have children, parents who need care or pets, you're present to assist when needed. (Just create a policy that when your home office door is closed, interruptions are not welcome. Boundaries are essential.)
--No office politics. Working from home means you're removed from office dramas and the daily dance of where everyone's going for lunch.
--You're able to eat healthier. Michelle Goodman, author of "The Anti 9-5 Guide" and "My So-Called Freelance Life" says, "You have to take as much care of what's in your fridge as what's on your resume." Without vending machines and grab-and-go pizza on a rushed office day, you're able to eat and snack healthier when your refrigerator is stocked with fruit, veggies and water (none of which will be stolen by co-workers.) Bloom's study says that sick days are fewer for home-workers than for office-workers.
--You can dress comfortably. While productivity experts advise against getting too comfortable, saying that still wearing office casual-type clothes when working from home boosts a positive, professional mindset, you may find that working in casual clothes creates that mindset for you. You're free of suits, dresses, heels and the expenses of buying them, which boosts your morale.
--A big plus for older workers, disabled workers and those who prefer to work alone is that they may be better able to get into the workforce, finding jobs that allow them to work remotely, as is best for their abilities. And companies may find that they attract higher-qualified employees who might not otherwise apply to an in-office job. Add in a company's savings on office space and equipment, and work-from-home programs can strengthen the company as well.
*The Challenges of Being a Stay-at-Home Worker
--Isolation. Unless you're the type who prefers to be alone, you'll miss out on friendships in the office, lunch excursions and attending events such as co-workers' weddings. Working from home can be lonely, so you'll have to make time to mingle with others to help prevent depression and loneliness.
--Expenses. You may have to buy office equipment, such as a scanner and upgraded computer, plus all of your office supplies. Granted, these expenses may qualify for a home office deduction on your taxes (check the IRS website for details), but the shopping is still up to you.
--No computer support. You won't have an in-house IT professional to debug your computer system, perform upgrades and maintain your online capabilities. You may have to hire someone to help with those essential functionality tasks.
--Time-consuming progress reports. Your company will want to know what you're working on and when; you may need to fill out time charts and progress documents to submit on a regular basis.
--Communication challenges. You'll communicate with your bosses, managers and team via emails and texts, in addition to Skype sessions, much of the time, and the first two can create misunderstandings when tone is not conveyed in typed messages.
--No division between work and home. It can be hard to "shut it off" when you log out for the day and rejoin your family after work hours. You may still be thinking about that project or checking your work emails during family time, so you'll have to create boundaries and be disciplined about closing your office door and truly checking out.
If working from home sounds attractive but your company doesn't offer it, request a work-from-home plan -- perhaps part-time, as a way for the company to test out the plan. And Goodman says that you can try out the feeling of working solo by going in to work an hour or two early when no one else is there, to see if working from home would work for you.