It's the economy that's stupid

Now that the phrase "The New Economy" must always be accompanied by a loud flushing noise, you might be asking yourself: Does it still make sense to work in a home office?

The answer is a resounding "You betcha!"

Sure, the economy's on the skids. Yes, the stock market's bouncing up and down like a beach ball at a Jimmy Buffett concert. And, of course, the current economic crisis makes managers edgy and cold. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't barge into the boss' office and demand to be allowed to work at home.

Your boss no doubt is distracted by the falling stocks ticking inside his head. Your boss is fumbling for the ripcord on his golden parachute. Your boss has big worries, such as whether to buy silence from his accountant before the Feds close in.

Your boss does not have time to deal with puny problems such as whether you, loyal worker, perform your duties from the corner office or from a corner of your den.

(For that matter, you could file your reports from the corner bar, and your harried boss probably wouldn't notice.)

So now, while the Big Guy is preoccupied with big issues such as tax evasion, might be the perfect time to ask: Can I work from home?

In The New Economy (flush!), working at home makes more sense than ever. Communications technology makes it possible to keep in touch all the time, and most high-tech, information-oriented work can be done from a home computer.

The 20 million-plus of us who already work at home know it's cheaper, simpler and more efficient than commuting to a job. Working at home makes for a flexible lifestyle, which is important if you have school-age children who always need to be driven somewhere. Plus, a home office comes with such intangible benefits as being able to eat Twinkies at your desk while working in your underwear.

Despite these benefits, many nervous employers resist the home office trend. They don't trust New Economy (flush!) workers to put in a full 60-hour week unless someone keeps an eye on them. Employers prefer "all hands on deck" so they have a large number of scapegoats to blame when things go terribly wrong.

The trick to persuading bosses to allow you to work at home is to show them that it's to their benefit to not have you underfoot.

Here are some facts to help you make your pitch:

--Studies have shown companies save money when they don't have to provide office space for all their employees, particularly the fat ones.

--Research has found that at-home workers are just as productive as ones kept under surveillance, and they're happier and more likely to stay in a particular job.

--Time currently spent commuting could be used more productively. And you'd conserve fossil fuels, unless you count the Twinkies.

--At-home workers are less likely to testify against their employers.

--Fewer documents to shred.

Working at home does have it hazards, particularly if you have school-age children who always need to be driven somewhere. Some people find they lose their foothold on the Ladder of Success when they work at home in their underwear. You can find yourself "out of the loop," missing important watercooler gossip about who's getting promoted and who's getting fired and who's going to prison.

(On the other hand, you get to be absent when SEC investigators raid the place.)

If working at home sounds right for you, go spring the question on your boss. What have you got to lose? Well, your job, for one thing. Your request might be the straw that breaks the proverbial CEO's back. He might say something like, "You want to stay home all day? Go ahead. You're fired."

But is that any worse than sitting around the office, biting your nails and watching the stock market, anxiously awaiting news that the pension fund's gone or the company's going belly-up or the Big Guy's going to Club Fed?

The New Economy (flush!) is steeped in worry and uncertainty, but you can be worried and uncertain anywhere.

Wouldn't you rather sit it out at home?

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