Moms Avoid Cubicles, Work from Home

As fewer employers offer flexible work schedules, more mothers are turning to their home computers to find that elusive balance between making an income and raising their children.

Mothers are using their child's naps or play dates to work from home. That way, they can make money and be involved in their kids' lives without stepping foot into a cubicle. From the employers' perspective, using home-based 'free agents' can save money.

"I can still feel I'm a productive member of society and bring in an income, but my children have never gotten off the bus and not had a parent there," Alyson Struwe, 41, of Beaver, Pa. told USA Today. "How many parents can say that?"

Struwe works for LiveOps, a call-center company with 3,000 independent agents. About 55 percent are mothers with children who are school age or younger and at home at least part time.

More companies are operating as LiveOps does, by tapping the labor pool of mothers who crave the flexibility of staying home with their children, but want to keep one foot in the working world.

"It's tough today to have a mom stay at home and not earn any income," says Bill Trenchard, LiveOps CEO. "We make it flexible around their lifestyle. They schedule when and how they work. We have a lot of moms who decide to do this as a home-based business. The Internet has opened these new opportunities."

Perhaps more women are turning to the work-at-home world because fewer companies are offering flex time. U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that the number of flexible schedules for wage and salary workers age 16 and older dropped from 29 million in May 2001 to 27.4 million in 2004, USA Today reported.

One explanation comes from Lonnie Golden, an associate professor of economics and labor studies at Pennsylvania State University's Abington [Pennsylvania] College. "When the labor market was a lot tighter, flexible schedules were offered in lieu of wages," Golden says. "It speaks to the underlying nature of the labor market. Employers don't have to offer [flexibility] anymore."

Working at home is not without its challenges: irregular hours, no health benefits and a fuzzy dividing line between 'home' and 'office.' Brenda Gruss, 51, of Chevy Chase, Md., works as a lawyer from home. "With the new technology, it's harder to separate work life from home life," Gruss told the newspaper. "The kids are doing homework, and I'll work on my computer."

Susan Dearing, an entrepreneurial mom with Alumni Career Services at UCLA Anderson School of Management, says women must understand the full picture of starting a business from home. She recommends a feasibility analysis to illustrate the financial consequences of a business, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin or Ontario, Calif. Family should be another factor, accounting for how much time a business will take away from the kids and spouse, she said.

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