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The Home Office is Humming How to work--<em>really</em> work--at home, and not lose your mind in the process

By Emili Vesilind

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For the office-bound, working from home sounds like a dream come true. After all, there are no demanding bosses, office politics or snooze-inducing meetings in your living room. You can wear your sweat pants, give the old Prius a rest and even hit that midday yoga class.

Last year, 18.4 million Americans were living that fantasy. According to the market research firm Interactive Data Corp., that's the number of homebased businesses, up from 16.5 million in 2008. In that same time frame, the number of home-based franchises also crept up--from 97,403 to 98,905 units, according to Entrepreneur's annual Franchise 500®survey. And Justin Jaffe, senior analyst for Interactive Data, says his firm expects 350,000 more home-based businesses every year for the next few years.

Setting up a home office is relatively easy, even exciting. It's what comes next--getting down to the actual work--that trips people up. Because the great benefit to working from home--escaping anytime you want to--is also its greatest challenge. Going to and from an office bookends the workday; home-based professionals are always in danger of entering "the gray zone," says Maria Bailey, CEO of, a website that lends support to female executives--many of whom work from home--with children. The gray zone, Bailey says, is the kind of multitasking "where you aren't doing anything 100 percent. You're not present at work or home."

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