Some weeks ago I speculated that conditions were ripe for a home business resurgence. [Click here to read that column.] Millions of workers have lost their jobs and are not likely to find new opportunities soon. Add to this a growing interest in staying close to home after the September 11 attacks. Suddenly family is more important and tall buildings are less appealing. Launching a home-based company is a logical solution to these dual concerns.
So I called Stacy Henderson, editor-in-chief of Home Business Magazine, to see if she sensed a greater interest in home businesses lately. The magazine is owned by Stacy and her husband, Richard, who acts as publisher for the bi-monthly publication covering the how-to and what-to of home-based enterprises. Henderson noted there was a clear increase in inquiries about home business. "We've noticed that people have inquired more about starting a home-based business during the months from September to the present, in comparison to this same time period in previous years."
She speculated that some of the interest in home business was likely due to the events of September 11. "Neither Richard nor I have any statistics to support this, but we personally feel the 9/11 tragedy could be a contributing factor. It's certainly caused Richard and me to re-examine our own priorities and to renew out commitments to our family and our responsibilities at home."
Henderson suggested that in addition to September 11, the economy itself is motivating people to consider starting a home business. "During the nine years of publishing Home Business Magazine, we've noticed that whenever the economy slows down, the interest in the home business market tends to accelerate," said Henderson. "People who have lost their jobs are seeking out home-based business alternatives. Nearly six percent of the U.S. workforce is now unemployed. Millions of workers are in danger of losing their jobs, and many of them will take their first look at home-business businesses."
In addition to the motivation of employment problems and a year to be close to home, Henderson said technology now makes it easier for people to compete in a home-based environment. "Wireless communication, high-speed Internet connectivity, and more powerful personal computer and office equipment have now made home-based business owners and home office workers as competitive as any in the economy today," said Henderson. "This increases the potential for future home-based business growth."
During the high craziness of the dot com boom, I had some fun imagining a changed world in which people worked from home in the midst of their families. I observed that this was a very natural way for human being to live, that for thousands of years people worked at home with their families, and that perhaps technology would finally allow us to return to a more familiar lifestyle. The act of going away to work each day, after all, was a mere 100-year interruption from our natural state. Now it was time to get back to the farm.
For the part five years, I have made my living from home while raising young children. Most of the women I know, and at least half of the men, view my situation as enviable. For me it was partly choice, partly opportunity. For writers, working at home is not that unusual. I didn't have to give up a bustling career to work at home. The Internet further allowed me to participate in business journalism internationally. I remember getting out of the shower one morning and having my five-year-old daughter tell me that Erika called. "Erika who?" I asked.
"Erika from Sweden," she beamed. Sure enough, a source had returned my call and had a charming conversation about Daddy in the shower.
Over the years, my picture of people returning home to work is slowly coming true. And from my personal poll of friends, family and acquaintances, it's not happening nearly fast enough. There are now forces of technology, opportunity and personal interest pushing the trend. Don't be surprised if a good portion of the laid-off workforce decides to stay at home and work once the economy gets back into growth mode.