Two-Step Commuters Dispel `Robe and Slipper' Myth
Telecommuters and entrepreneurs lend credibility to the alternative work style
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Audrey Choden, who operates Training by Design - a company providing custom employee-training programs near Kansas City - suspects she has missed out on some business opportunities because of her company's size. ``[These clients] were looking for a larger company to begin with,'' she explains. ``They couldn't conceive how the work could get done and felt uncomfortable from a legal standpoint. They didn't want to deal with the situation to begin with.''Skip to next paragraph
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In addition to attitudinal barriers, home-based businesses face structural road blocks. For security reasons, temporary agencies typically won't send workers to home offices and certain professional services may be more difficult to get.
When Judy Madnick, owner of A-1 Office Assistance, a home-based word-processing firm in Albany, N.Y., requested pick up and delivery from a local copy center, they informed her that they do not deliver to home offices because too often people weren't there. Although Ms. Madnick assured the manager that she was on-duty all day, he wouldn't budge. ``This really shook me up,'' Madnick says. ``As a home business, you start to feel like you're gaining credibility and that attitude doesn't help.''
The federal government has also played a role in discounting the home office. In 1993, the United States Supreme Court in its Commissioner v. Soliman decision severely curtailed the home-office tax deduction, making it nearly impossible for most home businesses to deduct office expenses. A bill is currently before Congress to restore the home-office tax deduction.
Society has been slow to accept home businesses for a variety of reasons. Often, people trapped in unhappy work situations envy the flexibility of the home-based entrepreneur. And, because many home-based businesses are woman-operated, the possibility exists that sexism plays a role. ``When a woman says, `Oh, I work at home,''' Permut observes, ``people think, it's not a real business; they think it's something to fill up your idle hours. But I do think that's changing because woman are being taken more seriously and more people in general are working at home.''
Although negative associations linger for home-based businesses, times are changing. Recognizing a growing market, private industry is working to cater to home-based businesses. Many phone companies offer special services and rates for home businesses, and some of the bigger office-supply warehouses are even making home-office deliveries. ``This has helped with the acceptability,'' Ms. Choden says. ``If home offices weren't recognized as an untapped market for goods and services, they would still be perceived as cottage industry.''
However, Brian Cassedy, chairman of the National Home Office Association in Washington, sees the ``robe and slipper'' myths surrounding home offices as all but extinct: ``This is the greatest social change since the advent of the two-income family. It's here. It's a reality.... It's the wave of the future.''