There was a time, not so long ago, when people “went to work” in a shop, an office, a factory and so on. Even before the global economic crisis, a revolution in how we work had begun. Since redundancies and unemployment continue to push more people out of traditional workplaces, the idea of working from home is becoming more popular. Spare bedrooms and attics are being transformed into offices, sewing rooms and art galleries; extra space in a garage or basement can make a comfortable workspace with a bit of imagination.If you have been cut off from your usual place of employment by redundancy or restructuring, putting your skills and talents to work in a place where you do not need to rent premises can be a real option. Some people are even finding they can hire themselves back on contract, to the places from which they were made redundant, as large firms look to outsource work in their efforts to stay afloat.Some small businesses are particularly suitable to operate from home. They include such things as real estate agencies, translation services, accounting, desktop publishing and book illustrating – all of which, to be viable, rely heavily on technology, so that the person running the business is easily in touch with clients or customers. Computers, fax machines, mobile phones, voicemail and the Internet have all had a part to play in the rapid growth of home-based businesses.As with any form of employment, working from home has advantages and disadvantages.First, the advantages. No longer will you have to sit in that rush-hour traffic, or endure the long commute in all weathers to your workplace. Just a few steps can see you “at the office” for the day and you can reflect on how not using gasoline is helping the environment. Often, but not always, you can choose the hours you work at home. If you are a night owl, it is easy to continue into the small hours writing that report – or if morning is your time, then dawn may see you at the computer most days. Flexible working hours fit well into family life – which may be the reason more women than men have been choosing this option until recently, as they prefer to be near their children while the children are small.The disadvantages are perhaps less obvious, but if you are looking at working from home they need to be considered. You may need to check local bylaws to ensure that the business you propose may be carried out in a residential area. This applies particularly if your business is likely to pollute the environment in any way – the suburbs are not always the best place for a saw doctor to set up shop from home. Similarly, if many people will beat a path to your door, working from home may not gain official approval. (And if you are looking online for ways to work from home, be careful of Internet “scams”. There are plenty out there – read the fine print carefully before you sign up.)As well as neighbors, you need to consider the other people in your household. How do they feel about your planned new workplace? Will there be enough space for what you will be doing? (Grooming dogs in the living room does not always meet with other people’s approval.)Lastly, realize that home can mean interruptions and distractions that may, in the end, mean you don’t get as much work done as you had planned. Without the structured routine of a workplace, and the companionship of colleagues who are also working, you need a lot of self-discipline to turn down that third cup of coffee and retreat to your home office. However, if you are able to adjust to the new way of life mentally and physically, joining the ranks of those who work from home can be a real and rewarding career choice.

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