A 10-step commute from bedroom to home office can be life-changing, but it’s not for everyone.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent study on working from home found that roughly 15 percent of workers in the United States worked from home at least once a week. 

At the time the study was published (2005), Americans were spending up to 100 hours a year commuting to work, the equivalent of two weeks of vacation time.

And while some may prefer sitting in traffic sipping a latte, spending that same time lying on the beach sipping a margarita sounds a whole lot better. It’s 2011, and time to think out of the box and out of the office.

Making a smooth transition

There are many factors that help determine if an individual will be successful working from home.

Knowing your ideal work environment is key to making this decision. If you’re self-motivated and work best uninterrupted by the chatter of co-workers, a home office can do the trick — as long as you’ve got a designated quiet space in which to work.

But if you’re someone who craves social interaction and works best surrounded by others doing similar tasks, or if the lure of the couch and the television will be too much to bear, stick with the commute and consider carpooling to save gas and the environment.

For those who want to give working at home a try, there are a few more things to consider. In addition to saving time and money on the commute, at-home employees can save on the cost of maintaining a professional wardrobe and by lunching on fridge food rather than hitting the corner deli with co-workers.

Missing out on promotions?

On the flip side, many surveyed employees who work from home fear they are missing out on promotions and other opportunities that arise from face-to-face interaction. Some even complain of not being taken as seriously as their commuting counterparts in the work force.

Ideally, someone who works from home should consider going into the office at least one day a week, be present at critical meetings and participate in company events. Following this advice together with efficient work output and consistent e-mail and phone communication will keep an employee front and center when an opportunity for advancement arises.

To fill the basic need for human interaction and for a change of space, work can periodically be done via laptop in a coffee shop, bookstore or library. This type of "field trip" is also perfect for days when distractions at home prevent efficient workflow.

Finding a work-at-home job

If you’re ready to search for a new at-home career, job sites such as workathomejobs.org and workathomecareers.com list daily postings for temporary or long-term online positions. Be sure to check out their anti-scam information to avoid online work scams and weed out the duds from the hot jobs. Entrepreneurs who are launching a home-based business can visit the U.S. Small Business Association website for helpful tips and forms in addition to grant and loan information. 

One fast-growing online opportunity involves home-based call centers. Alpine Access, LiveOps and West at Home provide phone support solutions to companies such as Home Depot, America Online and other Fortune 500 companies.

Workers for these call centers typically handle sales and customer service calls and are required to have a computer with high-speed Internet, a dedicated phone line and no background noise. The typical pay for call-center work is about $8 per hour for time spent on the phone, so be prepared for idle unpaid time and plan accordingly.

Reverse outsourcing

Yet another new and promising trend for home-based workers is reverse outsourcing — hiring Americans to work online and on the phone for companies located overseas. Remember the tech support call when you tried in vain to communicate with someone in Zimbabwe about your printer’s defects? It’s payback time.

The most important thing to remember about making a home-based career decision is to do your research. Read what others have to say about working from home and talk to others who have tried – both successfully and unsuccessfully.

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