Work-at-home options have always existed, from cottage industries such as craftsmen who fashion handmade, unique, or limited production goods to authors who scribble or type away in hungry solitude. As today’s digital economy expands and business adapts to factors such as a current labor shortage, changing customer behavior, and demands for work-life balance, remote employment becomes an ever more viable option for gainful employment. Even community colleges and universities have jumped on that bandwagon, offering distance learning options that enable instructors to reach students beyond their local campuses and students to acquire instruction that would have been previously unavailable to them.

When contemplating a shift to a new job or career, the savvy worker considers the long-term viability of that change. What is current demand? What do experts predict will be the future demand? Are their opportunities for job growth and career advancement? Workers must answer these and other questions in order to make prudent decisions that will affect the lives of their families as well as themselves. Because MotherWorks specializes in finding employment opportunities for stay-at-home parents—primarily mothers—who are available either on a part-time basis or sporadically throughout the day, we break this decision making process into two basic steps: 1) identifying the most promising jobs of the future and 2) estimating which best translate into remote jobs (if they aren’t already remote).

Demographics and market force

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an increase of employment from 115.1 million jobs to 167.6 million during the 10 years spanning 2016 to 2026. The government press release states that

Health care industries and their associated occupations are expected to account for a large share of new jobs projected through 2026, as the aging population continues to drive demand for health care services. The labor force will continue to grow slowly and to become older and more diverse. The aging population is projected to result in a decline in the overall labor force participation rate over the 2016 to 2026 decade.

This has easily perceived ramifications. An aging population means an increase in workforce retirement, a trend already witnessed as the vast Baby Boom generation, born in 1946 through 1964, retire en masse within the next 10 to 15 years. This generation, according to Statista, commands a 22.56 percent share of the U.S. population. The much smaller Generation X (born 1965 – 1980) cannot replace all those retiring workers, so it’s up to the Millennial Generation (born 1981 – 1996) and Generation Z (born 1997 and later) not only to pay into the Social Security fund to support the aged Boomers, but to replace them in the workforce. Not only are Boomers—and GenX’ers right behind them—preparing for their golden years, but they’ll need the attendant healthcare services that accompany the needs of advanced age.

A vast and aged generation not only needs plenty of accessible healthcare options, but buildings to accommodate their reduced mobility and to contain those healthcare options. Architects and construction trades predicted this phenomenon in the 1990s and currently enjoy the resultant boom in the design and construction of hospitals and assisted living facilities.

They did not predict the consequences of the immensity of the Millennial and GenZ generations following the much smaller GenX cohort: a huge influx of children needing larger, up-to-date educational facilities and an exploding need for suitable housing. Shifting preferences in housing from suburban to urban have contributed to a renaissance of city construction projects.

Another ramification concerns the currently tight job market as technology-addicted Millennials and GenZ’ers use their market clout to demand and acquire benefits and flexibility that older generations have only begun to enjoy. As employers scramble to fill vacant positions, they acquiesce to many of those demands in an order to attract and retain good workers. As far as the workforce in general is concerned, it’s a worker’s market: they have the power to effect substantive and substantial workplace changes in corporate and public policy. 

Workers, especially those of childbearing age, can take advantage of the current economic and demographic reality to negotiate better opportunities for themselves.

Hot future careers

Since the 1990s, the digital revolution exercised its own influence over modern lifestyles and business operation. The now-ubiquitous acceptance of convenient online ordering gave package delivery services a much-needed boost, even as the prevalence of email dealt a heavy blow to the U.S. Postal Service. Outsourcing also took its toll, with manufacturing jobs leaving the country and their departure decimating entire communities. However slowly, manufacturing has seen a steady return to the USA, partially due to increases in fuel costs, tariffs on imported goods, and demands for better working conditions, benefits, and pay in those countries benefiting from those outsourced jobs.

In October 2017, Business Insider listed what they considered the “21 most promising jobs of the future.” Beyond healthcare and technology, the list includes diverse industries ranging from agriculture to construction to transportation. Not to be outdone, Forbes also published their prediction of the ten fastest growing jobs: registered nurses, retail sales, home health aides, personal care aides, office clerks, food service, customer service, truck driving, freight workers, postsecondary instruction. In contrast to Business Insider, Forbes identifies agricultural workers as among the most dismal for future employment growth and opportunity. CNBC offers a slightly different list for the 10 best jobs in the future. Not surprisingly, that list also focuses on jobs in healthcare and technology. CNBC notes that the worst job opportunities “involved handwork and craft work that can eventually become automated.”

Flexible, remote, and growing

The second part of the hunt for a sustainable, flexible, and remote career entails matching jobs predicted for future high demand (and good wages) with stay-at-home parents’ desire for flexibility. Obviously, some professions such as long-distance hauling do not lend themselves to work-at-home careers. Others may involve limited or only local travel, such as health care aides and physical therapists who travel to their patients’ homes. Still others, such as telemarketing and customer service, no longer require on-site presence as long as the employer or worker is willing and able to acquire and install the necessary equipment and software in their home offices.

The Work-at-Home Woman lists companies currently hiring in top career fields for remote jobs. Business Insider debunks the idea that work-from-home jobs focus on unskilled or low-skilled work and paltry wages. Many of these jobs may focus on subject matter expertise or soft skills rather than technological prowess. Such jobs, as described by WiFi Tribe, may include teaching, marketing and social media management, writing and editing, accounting, data entry, and business administration (i.e., virtual assistants). As a whole, these career options focus on the provision of a service rather than the production of goods.

Stay-at-home parents who wish to further distance themselves from the traditional employment model and not only work from home but also be their own bosses, have no better opportunity than now to exercise their entrepreneurial dreams. The Simple Dollar lists some growing, in-demand career fields that lend themselves well to entrepreneurs: medical transcriptionist, translator, web developer, travel agent, writer and editor, social media manager, and virtual assistant.

Cottage industry options

But let’s say you’d really rather not spend you so-called free time chained to a desk and computer. Cottage industries remain a small, but viable option. Sure, some computer work is necessary. Your business will require a website to showcase who you are and what you do. Pictures of any products you manufacture will have to be uploaded and described to that website. Familiarity working with e-commerce sites such as Etsy, Ebay, and Amazon is required if you want to sell your high quality, handmade products beyond your local neighborhood. 

Profitable Venture offers a list of 50 small scale cottage industry ideas that range from soap making to locksmithing to housekeeping. Wealth Artisan offers a similar list of 40 small-scale business ideas. IBISWorld identifies eight “thriving” cottage industries:

Industry10-Year Annualized Revenue Growth (2007 to 2017)
Alternative Healthcare Providers4.2%
Psychologists, Social Workers and Marriage Counselors5.0%
Personal Waxing and Nail Salons3.1%
Psychic Services1.2%
Maids, Nannies and Gardeners0.8%
Online Pet Food and Pet Supply Sales3.5%
Party and Event Planners1.0%
Performers and Creative Artists0.6%

Source: Industry Insider.

IBISWorld also notes that low unemployment and increased disposable income enable workers to afford those little luxuries, such as personal care and housekeeping services that otherwise go by the wayside during a poor economy. Those interested in providing childcare, housekeeping, or gardening services may be surprised to learn that growing demand makes these career options sustainable and lucrative.

Opportunities abound for the creative and determined in diverse market niches to free themselves from the traditional workday regimen while still earning a good living.