Why are people hostile to home businesses? What is it exactly that they don’t get?
When I began my research into the emerging force of home-based business, I was surprised to find that the traditional business community regarded this increasing trend with hostile reactions, particularly to the demands for greater workforce flexibility.
I began to look more closely at the home worker market and investigate how to support and encourage the desire people had to breakout, be free and be their own boss.
Even I was surprised at just how fast this sector is growing. There are now a total of 2.7 million home-based workers.
In the past decade, there has been an increase of more than 300,000 people doing some work from home, according to Roy Morgan Research, with a million small business owners included in the 2.7 million home-based worker figure. There are in addition another three million Australians who say they have “retired” and now just do jobs around the home.
Home businesses and workers are the fastest source of new careers in the Australian economy and a labour source for many larger business enterprises to cut costs, and corners, to business renewal.
Yet despite the obvious importance to the nation, households are too often seen only in terms of their value to the economy as consumers and not as vital producers of value. The value of a household’s contribution is often neglected in the same way as the value of the million people who indicate that their job at home is the ubiquitous “home duties”. Some people make a false divide between the world of work and the economic, environmental and social contribution of the household sector.
Many of the people that have talked to me about their experience of being a home-based worker confirms my belief that well-meaning people often make discriminatory comments or put down entrepreneurs who work from home. We are seen as unprofessional or not up-to-scratch, and many of us feel we are ignored.
I’ve even been told towards to the end of a phone call that I’m lucky that I can head for a chair in the dining room now because there is an assumption that that is where I work.
It never ceases to amaze me when well-meaning business associates envy my life as a home-based business leader – never for the right reasons. Instead, for no good reason they think of home workers as housewives who run a small office, home office (SOHO) from the kitchen table, and when we get bored reading The Australian Financial Review we head out for tennis and latte.
The business-to-business world, despite the hostility, is being forced to recognise the value and contribution of home business as they cannot ignore such a huge trend.
Companies also miss the opportunity to sell to, and provide tailored solutions for, this growing segment. They also assume the home business market has all the same needs, instead of understanding that it is made up of different segments with different needs.
With the development of new technologies such as the internet, laptops and remote conference-call technologies, many more people are exploring start-ups and building a business from home as an opportunity and even a necessity if they are to keep their sanity.
People have told me what they enjoy most about working from home is the freedom to be themselves. They enjoy being able choose how to run their day. If they want to stay in their pajamas and work through the day, this is possible. If they want to work very late at night, they can (which is how I’ve written this blog).
Next week: How to run an effective home business.
Dr Jane Shelton not only runs a business from home but is doing business research into people working from home. She is managing director of Marshall Place Associates, Melbourne’s independent think tank, and CEO (honourary) for ‘Life. Be in it.’ International. Shelton has a Doctorate in Business Administration at the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) at Swinburne University of Technology after a Master of Arts in Public Policy at Melbourne University and a Bachelor of Business in banking and finance at Monash University.