How seriously do some people take working at home? Consider the story that Jean M. Coyle, the new president of the National Alliance of Homebased Business, recalls reading about one worker.

The man, a tax accountant, dawdled about the house every morning, never quite getting motivated. Then he tried a different strategy. When he woke up, he put on a pinstriped suit, picked up his briefcase, and walked out the front door. From there, he walked to the rear of the house and descended the steps to his basement office.

Coyle has been involved with home-based businesses since 1985, when she started working out of her home as a consultant on aging. While she still consults out of her Alexandria apartment in the evenings, Coyle now works full time at the National Council on the Aging, where she is the membership unit coordinator.

As president of the NAHB, Coyle will lead what she calls the nation's first nonprofit organization dedicated to people who work out of their homes. The group, which Coyle estimates has between 600 and 1,000 members, meets each year. "It's an opportunity for home-based business people to support one another," she said.

According to Coyle, home-based business is the fastest-growing form of business in the United States. In the 1980 census, the last year for which figures are available, almost 3 percent of all employed Americans were conducting business from their homes, trading what many see as the hassles of commuting and punching time clocks for both tax breaks and autonomy.

"There are almost no limits to home-based business," Coyle said. "Where you are operating from is sort of incidental in terms of the kind of work that you can produce."

Working at home requires independence, self-discipline and the ability to set one's own structures, Coyle said. Some home-based workers are troubled by the lack of an office address and the camaraderie that comes with working in an office.

"There's an isolation that one might feel, a disconnection that occurs sometimes," Coyle said. "The alliance is a way that home-based business people can connect with one another."

The organization, which was founded in 1981, originally was known as the National Alliance of Homebased Business Women. In a survey, members of the alliance voted to drop the term "women" from the group's name to better reflect the group's membership, Coyle said.

Coyle's background includes a PhD in sociology with a specialization in gerontology. She was a college professor for 15 years, the last five at Eastern Illinois University.

Coyle also is acting president of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the National Alliance of Homebased Business.

As head of the national alliance, Coyle said that she will deal with the issue of credibility.

"When you say you have a home-based business, the connotations are somewhat different," Coyle said. "Some think it's a hobby."