CHICAGO — Since Emily Merritt began working from her Old Town home two years ago, it's allowed her to do things she couldn't otherwise do when she spent every workday in a Downtown office.
A senior analyst with Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate company, Merritt takes conference calls in the quiet of her home, which she also uses to teach Nia — a mix of dance, martial arts and yoga — classes on the side.
She also avoids that pesky rush hour commute.
"I walk to South Pond almost every day," Merritt said. "I interact more with my neighborhood now that I work from home."
Merritt is among the 4.3 percent of Chicago's 1.18 million-strong workforce that works from home, according to a DNAinfo Chicago analysis of census data.
Lakeview has the city's largest population of people who work from home (4,080 people), according to Census data from 2009 to 2013 compiled by DNAinfo Chicago.
The Near North Side (3,902), West Town (3,271) and Lincoln Park (2,740) community areas are also home to high numbers of people who report being able to work without opening their front doors.
As far as the census is concerned, "working from home" covers a lot of situations: working from the couch in pajamas, working from the neighborhood coffee shop or working in a co-working space with others who aren't colleagues.
The main thing is, working from home doesn't require heading into the same workplace every day.
Tanveer Ali talks about data showing where Chicagoans work from home:
In recent years, a number of coworking and shared office areas have opened around Downtown, such as Assemble in Gold Coast. Such spaces are popping up in less central neighborhoods like Uptown, Pilsen and North Center as well.
Hansen Realty converted a small portion of its Bradley Place warehouse in North Center — a neighborhood where 7.9 percent of workers don't go into a central workplace — into office space to be split by eight individual, and otherwise unconnected, people.
"We saw shared office becoming a major player in the real estate industry," said Brett Berlin, who runs the Bradley Business Center.
"Not everyone wants to work from home or an office all the time," Berlin said. The renters "know this place is close to home and an extension of their home."
Hansen is considering expanding the shared office space at 2500 W. Bradley Place, which includes amenities like conference rooms that can prove better places to hold meetings with clients than the living room at home.
But for some Chicagoans, like Merritt, who was hesitant about leaving the office life for fear that she'd become unproductive, there's no better way to work than from home.
"I hope I never will have to work from an office, I love working from home."
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