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Working from Home

April 3, 2006

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:23

If you make a reservation with JetBlue Airways, chances are very good that you will speak with someone working from home in the Salt Lake City area. That’s because 80% of all JetBlue reservationists work from home and live within 40 miles of the JetBlue’s support center in Salt Lake. When the airline was launched in January 2001, JetBlue CEO David Neeleman allowed all 40 reservation agents to work from home, and work part-time. Today, 1,200 of the 1,500 agents work from the comfort of their homes.

Twenty years ago, it was somewhat taboo to telecommute or operate a business from the home. Not today. Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat, found that people are 30% more productive when working from home. He claims that 16% of the U.S. workforce is now working in a residence. A recent survey by JupiterResearch showed that 24% of U.S. workers telecommute at least part of the time.

High-speed Internet connections and wireless handheld devices make it easier to circumvent the traditional office. When working from home, the commute becomes very short—usually measured in seconds—and you save fuel and reduce traffic and pollution. Also, you don’t have to spend as much time getting ready for work. Just last week, a manufacturing consultant told me that she routinely conducts important business in her pajamas. (Okay, that’s probably more information than we need.)

Friedman calls the trend “home sourcing.” I see it expanding to the point where niche, short run, and custom manufacturing will occur in homes. As the price of additive fabrication systems declines, it will become appealing for entrepreneurs to apply the concept of rapid manufacturing in a spare room, basement, or garage. The overhead will be minimal, yet there’s little reason why product quality and customer service can’t be among the best available anywhere.

Margot Miller, manager of reservations at JetBlue, said that people tend to be more productive in their own environment and most people like to work at home because it saves time and it’s easier on their families. My experiences reinforce Miller’s views.