In recent years, startups and small businesses have become more accepting of the fast-growing work-from-home trend. In fact, last year 43 percent of employed Americans reported working some time from home, increasing four percentage points from 2012.

Having the freedom to create an ideal workspace from the comfort of home is appealing to many - especially those who find better productivity outside of a traditional office structure. But for those who prefer commuting to a more structured, designated space, working from home may counter their idea of a work-life balance.

The Future of Work-From-Home

One particular apartment community, e-lofts, is aiming to redefine what it means to work from home by blurring the line between the two. Loft-style spaces with the ability to be rented as apartments, offices, or both allow tenants to fully create their unique work-life balance.

Exclusive to the D.C.-area (at least for now), e-lofts, meaning 'everything you want to do' lofts, gives tenants the flexibility to collaborate with a community largely made up of small business owners, startups, remote workers and solopreneurs - people just like them - in the comfort of ...well, whatever they make of their space.

With more and more businesses ditching the traditional office structure, Melanie Domres, senior vice president of Cafritz Interests, one of the development partners of e-lofts, points to a number of factors driving this trend.

"Technology, disaggregation of large contracts to smaller contractors, the need for specialized workers at small firms and the change in workers' attitudes towards remaining at one firm for much of their working lives."

Work-Life Imbalance?

Still, there's a difference between working from home a few days a week and being a full-time "stay at home" employee or business owner. And it raises an important question: Is work-life balance possible when the space in which a person works and lives are the same?

Samantha Cole, a freelancer that spent months running her business from her apartment, saw the benefits of working from home, but ran into common downsides. Cole noted that, like many others working from home, she found herself "rolling right into work tasks, then humming along on work way past when I should have quit, or returning to something late at night." Cole isn't alone in the inability to separate working and living.

In a study of Dutch self-employed workers, not being able to stop thinking about work or checking their email at the dinner table left many with aches and pains, and they felt that they were doing a worse job.

Redefining Work-Life Balance

Domres, though, believes that e-lofts is the solution to balancing working and living cohesively. "E-lofts enables work-life balance. What disrupts work-life balance is that traditional home life is not conducive to doing work, so people spend more time at the office to get that work done." Cafritz's regional portfolio manager, Meredith Coules, adds, "People nowadays want work to be more than simply punching a clock. They want to find meaning in their work, creativity and fun. E-lofts allow you to do that."

Here are three ways in which e-lofts wants to redefine work-life balance:

  1. Utilize your time your way. E-lofts, through its design and amenities, enables residents to stay on top of their fitness schedules, laundry, socializing and various at-home responsibilities. According to Domres, e-lofts tenants can "work out in the middle of the day, take a shower in your loft, wash your dirty fitness clothes at your office, take your dog out for a midday walk, work downstairs in the social kitchen and meet a potential friend, date or client and have a place to change to go out after work." Instead of waiting for the work day to be over to do these things, residents can do them during the workday.
  2. Creativity has no limit. Ever since the world got an inside look at workspaces like Google and Facebook, offices quipped with slides, nap rooms and basketball courts, workplaces have learned creativity is crucial. And while some are slow to adapt, e-lofts wants to make inspiration and creativity an essential. With a music room, colored pencils galore, pet friendly spaces and hammocks, this community provides a true startup vibe.
  3. Lowered cost risks. Arguably the biggest risk to starting a business is cost. Domres says, "entrepreneurs can write one check for both living and working, significantly reducing their start-up risk." Coules adds, "In other words, if you live and work at e-lofts, you can write off up to 49 percent of your rent in taxes." Collaborating your living and work environment dramatically decreases the cost of creating and maintaining a business, and in turn, decreasing the capital risks involved.

Understandably, some people prefer not to have such blurred lines between their work and living spaces. Losing designated spaces, not knowing when to end the work day and finding new distractions are enough reason for some to keep their 9-5 work day out of the house. But the rise of e-lofts and other non-traditional workspaces haven prompted many to reevaluate their perceptions of work-life balance.

And don't expect the work-from-home movement to slow down anytime soon. With more fields actively embracing the out of office trend, it seems likely that more e-loft style live-work spaces will arise in upcoming years.