PAUL AND SARAH EDWARDS of Santa Monica, Calif., are gurus of the burgeoning work-at-home movement, encompassing nearly 25 million people working full or part-time where they live. Fifteen years ago the Edwardses left their jobs - he as an attorney and corporate executive, she as a social worker - to face the challenges and benefits of working from home. They were looking for more control over their lives, they say, less stress, fewer distractions, more time for each other and their son, Jon, and no daily commutes.
They have watched the work-at-home movement spawn a big business in home-office furniture, equipment, and supplies. They also observed that home workers often needed information, encouragement, and advice.
And so their own work-from-home success has pyramided into a business called ``Here's How,'' through which they share information on how to work happily and productively from home.
In addition to managing a computer network of more than 6,500 subscribers, the Edwardses have written a best-selling paperback book (``Working From Home,'' distributed by St. Martin's Press, New York, $12.95) and produced an audiotape (``How to Succeed at Working From Home,'' TDM/McGraw-Hill). Other activities include hosting a weekly radio show and writing a column for Home Office Computing magazine.
The couple anticipates that by the year 2000, one in three Americans in the work force will be working full or part-time at home. Their friend Thomas E. Miller of Link Resources in New York forecasts that by the end of the year there will be 26.6 million at-home workers and 30.8 million by 1992. These will include salaried corporate employees who work at home, the self-employed, and others who work at home at least eight hours a week as free-lancers, contract workers, or moonlighters.
Two trends surfaced last year, says Mr. Miller: more people took time between staff jobs to work at home; and women began to outnumber men at-home workers. ``Women who opt to work at home can rear children and maintain a family life,'' he says, ``yet pursue a career and bring in an income.''
What kinds of work do people do at home? Everything from operating alarm systems to zipper repair, say these experts. At-home workers do consulting, word-processing and secretarial work, public relations, accounting, bookkeeping, or graphic design. Many are contractors, sales people, real estate professionals, even lawyers.
Improved office-machine technology - chiefly personal computers and fax machines - makes working at home more attractive and possible, say the Edwardses.
The perfect home office, they say, is a separate room with good lighting, some soundproofing, and one hopes, a view. Equipment should include a personal computer with printer and modem, a photocopier, a fax machine, at least two phone lines, and a cordless telephone and headset.
Among the Edwardses' list of important ``do's'':
Invest in attractive and attention-getting business cards, letterhead, and envelopes.
Set daily goals - don't simply react to events and demands.
Value your time as you value your money.
Collect money due promptly, pay bills on time, and keep financial records that will be understandable a year from now.
Set up a good filing system, keep definite work hours, and learn to say ``no'' to intrusions.
Get out of the house regularly. Keep up with friends, colleagues, and the community. Take time to enjoy yourself.
Among the ``don'ts'':
Don't put your home office in your bedroom, or expect to work with children underfoot.
Don't let housework distract, and don't let paperwork and office equipment take over your home.
Don't give up too soon on working from home. It takes time to iron out the kinks, say the Edwardses.