by Teri Fritsma

Working from home (also called telecommuting) can give you more flexibility, greater control over your work schedule, less time commuting and a smaller carbon footprint.  Approximately 21% of people work at least some of their hours from home on a typical work day, according to the  American Time Use Survey (ATUS).  Here are some other findings from the ATUS that can help you figure out how to position yourself for a career that lets you work from home.


  • Consider going into business for yourself.  Not surprisingly, self-employed people are the most likely to work from home.  Just over half of all self-employed workers work some of their hours from home on an average day, compared to 17% of typical wage or salary workers.


  • Earn a college degree.  If you have at least a bachelor’s degree, you’ll be almost three times more likely to be able to work from home than if you have a high school degree.


  • Find a high-paying job.  The more you earn, the more likely you are to work from home.  Nearly one out of every three workers in the highest wage category ($1,211 per week or higher) worked some hours from home on an average work day.  (On the other hand, these workers reported working the most hours, too.)


  • Choose a career in Management, Business, Financial Operations, Sales, or other professional-level occupations.  At least one out of every four workers in these fields worked some of their hours from home.


  • You’ll be least likely to be able to work from home if you work in construction, production, maintenance, repair, or transportation.  Less than 10% of workers in these fields work any of their hours from home.  (This makes sense since most of the work involved in these fields must be done on site.)


  • Work part-time or full-time.  Part-timers are just as likely to work from home as full-timers, according to the ATUS.


  • Be wary of “work-at-home” job ads — not all of them are legitimate.   The Federal Trade Commission has investigated multiple cases of bogus business opportunities and work-at-home scams.  (This article from the University of Alabama-Birmingham has more examples.)  Remember: if they want money upfront, or if the ad sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


If you do land a job that lets you work from home, consider the following.  Even though telecommuting is becoming more common, most employers still view it as a privilege, not a right.  Having the freedom to work from home means you’ll need the self-discipline to get your hours in and get your work done.  You’ll also need to do a good job of communicating via e-mail, text messaging, or on the phone.  Don’t let your boss or your work team wonder about whether or not you’re actually working when you’re not around.  Finally, remember: out of sight, out of mind.  Make sure you’re getting enough face time with your work team, since you may be missing out on those spontaneous conversations that happen around the water cooler.