How many in Maine have left the office behind? Have you?

A new group launching in Portland this week hopes to get better information about the group of people who, generally, don’t work out of the same building as their boss.

Broadly, that means people who can work from pretty much anywhere with an internet connection.

Ryan Wallace, director of the Muskie School’s Center for Business and Economic Research, says there’s not good information available about that segment of the workforce in the current census figures.

To that end, the group has put out an online survey aimed for people who work remotely (like me!). If that sounds like you, I know the researchers involved would be grateful for responses.

If you’re not sure if that’s you, read on.

The census question that provides the closest approximation of what he is after asks how people get to work. Home is an option, but that could also include businesses like carpenters or plumbers who, with reason, would choose “home” over responding “other people’s homes” as the location of their business.

Those surveys estimate that a little less than 6 percent of Maine’s workforce works from home.

In its first question, the survey gets more specifically at the group it’s trying to identify (and asks if respondents agree with the definition):

Remote workers are also commonly referred to as mobile, distributed, or virtual workers. These are people who complete work tasks away from a centralized office location with all or a majority of their time. Remote workers are able to choose where they live and work and are not necessarily restricted to a particular geographic location relative to their employer or clientele.

Defining just who fits into that workforce is still a work in progress — the nonprofit starting in Portland, called “Work in Place,” prefers to use its namesake term, not defined by where a person works but by the ability to work anywhere.

The group also seeks to provide a professional network for that apparently growing group of workers who — in addition to providing employers with savings on rent, utilities and other things — can face challenges in having a work place that’s not a place.

In other words, there’s something a little disorienting about spending the day working at a dining room or kitchen table until roughly dinner time (I’ve been there).

Wallace noted in a telephone interview last week that the survey won’t produce statistically valid results about the population in Maine, but will help define further inquiries and possibly confirm a hunch that the Pine Tree State is well-positioned to lure away location-independent workers in the Northeast and farther afield.

The idea, then, is considering whether the state should try economic development incentives aimed at luring remote workers. Vote on that very general question in the Twitter poll below and let me know what you think about that topic in more detail in the comments.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.