Home working in the UK has risen by 20% over the last decade to a record 1.5 million people, and the trend is continuing apace. If you’ve decided to say goodbye to the daily commute and work from home instead, either as an employee working remotely or to set up your own business, a proper home office will be your first priority.
Here’s what you need to do.
Make a list of all the essentials you need
Before you can make a sensible decision on how much space to allocate for your home office, it’s important to scope your requirements. Your ‘critical needs’ list should include essential items such as office furniture, communications and audiovisual equipment, reception and meeting space and anything that’s specific to your business.
It is tempting, particularly when you fit out a brand new home office, to keep spending to a minimum until your business is better established. However, don’t make the mistake of economising in the wrong areas. Top of your spending list should be a good quality desk and ergonomically designed chair, the best computer equipment and software you can afford, fast internet and a decent smartphone.
Choose the right office space
When you’ve worked out the type and amount of space you need for your home office, it’s time to consider the space at your disposal. Choose somewhere quiet where you can work without interruption and away from the hustle and bustle of family life.
A spare bedroom or attic room may work well, though if you’re receiving clients the room may not be big enough and an upstairs location may be awkward. If you can choose a downstairs location nearer the front door, this might be preferable.
If there’s no space in the house, have you thought about putting a log cabin home office in the garden? These garden buildings have come a long way since back in the days of the basic shed. Available in a wide range of styles, sizes and designs, they’re made from sustainable timber and can be delivered and erected within a matter of weeks.
Log cabins come complete with cavity wall, floor and roof insulation that can be upgraded to give the same thermal performance than a modern house. For inspiration, take a look at the range of office log cabins on the Hortons Group website.
Organise your workspace efficiently
Once your home office is ready for moving in, you need to plan the space to make the most of it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just bumble along; good organisation is key to help you find what you need when you need it, and to keep the mess at bay – particularly important if you are seeing clients.
Crucially, you need enough space to spread out comfortably while you work. Allocate plenty of space for storage too. Some open shelving will be useful for easy access, but most of your files and papers should be kept behind cupboard doors or in drawers out of sight. Store rarely used files in another room, if you must. Better still, use cloud storage to the amount of paper in your office.
Always keep home and work separate
While one of the benefits of working from home is to have lower overheads, it can be a real nightmare to disentangle work and home expenditures when it comes to doing your tax return. As a rule of thumb, and as your accountant will fervently advise, you should aim to keep your professional and your personal life separate right from the off.
Mixing telephone numbers is a no-no. How would your clients feel if a child picked up the phone, or they had to leave a message on what sounds like a home answerphone? Having a dedicated number for your business gives a much more professional image.
The same goes for your bank account. Set up a separate business bank account so you can keep track of what goes in and what goes out without confusing professional and personal items. Believe me, you will be grateful come tax return time.
Introduce discipline and structure
One of the major attractions of being your own boss working from home is that you can choose your own working hours, do things exactly the way you want to, and work in pyjamas if you feel like it! Total flexibility may seem great in the beginning but after a while there is a risk that you may lose your way.
Think of introducing some basic office procedures at the beginning to keep everything going smoothly. Have a daily ‘to do’ list, set a regular time to deal with emails, have basic systems in place for orderly (and ideally standardised!) record keeping, and add some structure to your working day.
Knowing when you start and finish work may help you concentrate and improve your productivity; it may also stop well meaning visitors from popping in unannounced. Most importantly, perhaps, your clients may expect you to be available during normal office hours.
Working from home can be all consuming if you let it – but there’s much benefit to be had from having a healthy work/life balance. If you are struggling to let go of your work at the end of the day, do yourself a favour: put a clock in a prominent position in your office to remind you when it’s time to ‘go home’.
This article was written by Dakota Murphey.