Innovation and HomeWork - employment without leaving your home

April 6th 2015
by Susan Hall

The work-from-home sector has benefited from innovation. Technology has enhanced opportunities for women to enjoy various forms of employment without leaving their homes and families. Well-paying jobs are available. Across the globe, opportunities abound for women entrepreneurs, professionals and business people to satisfy personal and professional needs in one happy swoop.

Full circle… of sorts
For the working woman, balancing a job, childcare and family life has always been an aerial act. In pre-historic times, when men went off to hunt, women stayed at home with the kids and picked berries and nuts. Even that simple configuration probably had its challenges. 
The industrial revolution sent both men and women from their homes to factories. Until very recently, if a woman had a job or business, her children were cared for by free and able relatives, placed in day care, or tended by au pairs and nannies. 
The technology revolution has reversed the industrial one. People are returning to their homes, some of them for part-time jobs and others to create new businesses. Often conflicted and hurt when they were separated from young children by their jobs, women can now stay at home and flourish in their businesses as well.

The power of innovation
This comes at a time when people are becoming more and more concerned about technological innovation replacing work. Will machines replace workers? Will robots dominate manufacturing? Will innovation make work itself obsolete? In the post great-recession period, unemployment figures have dramatically risen in many countries.
Yet in the world’s five most innovative countries in the Global Innovation Index, job opportunities abound, and new parameters which extend to the home are often advantageous to women with families. That sounds enticing for a businesswoman with young children.
 
The trend is clear in Luxembourg, Norway, and the Netherlands who top the Global Innovation Index. These three innovative and capital-intensive economies also regularly appear at the top of lists of productivity per hour and employment (according to OECD data from 2001-2013). Norway of course has oil, which some say skews their economic outcomes.  Luxembourg has a particularly strong financial sector. Yet the Netherlands, which has no special advantages, has championed innovation. Eighty-five percent of large Dutch firms encourage innovation. More than 50% of all firms are pro-active innovators. Eindhoven, the home of Phillips Electronics, issues more patents than any other city in the world. So what is the Dutch secret for ensuring that technological progress benefits all and particularly women?

From part-time to freelance and remote work
The Dutch labour market has the highest concentration of part-time and freelance workers in Europe. Almost 50% of the total Dutch workforce and 62% of young workers are employed part-time. Part-time work can provide a living wage because hourly wages in the Netherlands are relatively high.
Many young Dutch women work part-time as schoolteachers. But a more lucrative – and common – source of part-time employment is the subcontracting of white-collar services. Specialised professionals sell their services to a wide range of businesses, supplementing the work of machines with human value added.
There is an explosion of jobs in the health-care industry around the world.  Home-based physicians and radiologists are the highest paid. They are being hired by companies to review and evaluate patient cases. In the US they earn near the $1,975 median weekly income of physicians, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS).
The field of “telehealth” provides quality wages and sometimes even full benefits or bonuses. Companies are beginning to hire at-home support staff such as medical transcriptionists. They earn between $30,000 and $50,000 a year and often are eligible for a bonus on signing. Registered nurses working at home earn near the $1,055-per-week industry median to do telephone triage and advise patients about their health care over the phone.
Internet technology was one of the first fields to latch onto the ‘work-anywhere’ notion. (Melissa Mayer of Yahoo reversed this trend). In 2008, the current company Oracle acquired the completely virtual IT company MySQL for $1 billion. MySQL’s at-home staff translates into reduced building costs and a bigger talent pool. Plus, it’s a boon for the employees. The BLS reports that computer software engineers earn a median of $1,549 each week and $85,000 a year. Computer scientists, programmers and systems administrators all earn about $1,200 per week.
Other lucrative at-home knowledge jobs include public relations specialists, graphic designers, writers and authors, and post-secondary teachers. Online adjunct university professors can earn up to six-figure salaries. 
In the financial field, banks hire home-based mortgage executives, tax preparers and financial managers.
Studies show that at-home workers are willing to earn up to 30% less than office-based workers. They often have heightened productivity. This can be a win-win solution for employer and employee. If you are running your business from home, hiring other at-home workers may make sense for your bottom line.

Next step: solo entrepreneurs
Another key to the Netherlands’ success in transforming its economy is entrepreneurship. In 1990-2010, self-employment rates fell across the OECD countries, with business ownership in the US, for example, having declined rapidly since 2002. In the Netherlands, however, business ownership has grown steadily since 1992, reaching 12% of the labour force in 2012. Almost 70% of Dutch business owners were exclusively self-employed in 2008.
This appears to be related to the rates of innovation in the country. The Netherlands has restructured its economic value chain to take care of a new division of labour between humans and machines. It has embraced part-time employment and single entrepreneurs to meet human needs, particularly those of women with families. 
By highlighting entrepreneurial skills – creativity, leadership, self-management and communication – women are able to keep pace with technology and use it to enhance their work/home balance.
Machines may be reaching new heights of intelligence, but they are no match for human resourcefulness, imagination, and interaction.
Investment in human capital can be combined with a strong innovative infrastructure, a wide range of information and communication technologies, and the free movement of labour across borders. 
One trait defines all the top innovation countries: the “ecosystem” approach to innovation. Favourable innovation policies are developed across the spectrum of business. Business sophistication and creativity are encouraged. The younger generation enabled. And women benefit from this trend. 
 
Susan has worked as an editor and author in many different fields, but is currently focused on delivering financial information and news that every woman needs to have to negotiate her personal and business life. Her website is www.w-t-w.org. and she invites comments and articles. You can contact Susan at susan.hall@w-t-w.org .
 
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