The Future Of SOHO

Government Trends make At-Home Work More Acceptable

As a certified homebased management consultant and government affairs director for the American Association of Home-Based Business, Ron Wohl tracks trends on government reaction to home officing. And in recent years, Wohl has liked what he's seen. Congress has loosened the IRS's policies on what qualifies as for a home office deduction, and cities have loosened zoning restrictions on the use of homes as offices.

With rising real estate costs and commute times and the volatility of gasoline prices, expect more of the same, says Wohl. Governments will continue to ease restrictions on business use of the home, and will encourage corporate teleworking.

The long-held but slowly disappearing laws forbidding homebased businesses will continue to fade-or become moot, Wohl says. Governments will increasingly enact laws that forbid businesses that disrupt a neighborhood with noise, odors or electrical interference, but other than those emissions, most businesses will be allowed, he says.

They'll also come to realize that banned businesses mean license revenues not realized. "It's going to take a little while longer for communities to understand that if they [legislatively prohibit] homebased businesses in their communities, it will be a hollow law [because homebased entrepreneurs] will do what they did in the past and violate it," Wohl says. "By making it illegal, they're losing out on taxes."

Wohl believes more government employees will be encouraged to become independent contractors and, in turn, will contract their services back to the government. But instead of people working only for a single client, more people will become true "free agents," working with a number of clients and on a variety of projects, he says.

These emerging work styles in government and the private sector are part of an effort to "rehumanize" the workplace, explains Wohl. Corporations are harmonizing their values with those of their employees and vendors, which is opening more doors to independent contractors and alternative work arrangements, including working with homebased vendors.

Finally, as local governments free citizens from regulations banning home enterprises, a wider audience will become comfortable with the at-home workplace. A new generation will become accustomed to working from the quiet environment of the home office, Wohl surmises, and that's how people will grow their experience in working at home.

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