More and more of us are making the decision to ditch the commute and start working for ourselves. Working from home can be more productive and more rewarding. But, of course, when we say goodbye to our employers, we say goodbye to their offices too.
We can’t try to run a business from the kitchen table. We need a home office of our own.
Working from home is becoming increasingly popular, for both employees and for the self-employed. But there’s more to it than finding a spare dining chair and a table to use as a desk. We will probably spend a large proportion of our day in our home office. We need surroundings that are comfortable, safe and that boost our productivity.
Separate office from home
It is important to create a clear distinction between your office and the rest of your home, especially if you will have clients who might pop in – or even check out your surroundings during a video call.
You need to create a separate office environment to recreate the professional support of a traditional workspace.
Many new homes are being built with rooms designed to be used as offices on the ground floor – recognising the increasing popularity of WFH. But if you have a spare bedroom that is used for little more than storage, it could provide a more than adequate alternative.
Be ruthless, clear the junk and you should be ready to set up your office. If you don’t have a spare room, you may be able to build an office in your back garden. Shedworking is growing in popularity but remember, a shed will be cold in winter – you may need a purpose-built garden office with ample insulation, heating and power, plus of course, internet access.
Equipping your office
For starters, you need a comfortable office chair. Get one which is designed for office use – it will have proper adjustable support for you back and ideally your lumbar region, which can be very important for avoiding aches and pains if you are sitting for the entire day – and can even help avoid long-term damage to your back.
A guest chair might also be a useful addition.
Then you will need a desk with more than enough room for the way you work. You’ll need storage, with drawers for paperwork and supplies, although these days, most of us can manage without the old-style filing cabinet, unless we work in the legal or other sectors where keeping paper originals is essential.
You may want a clock, a wall calendar and a notice board or whiteboard. They can all be provided perfectly well by your laptop or your smartphone, but many of us prefer to stick with the traditional approach.
Next on the list is lighting. You will need a work light on your desk and general purpose light for the rest of the room. The latest LED bulbs are costly but pay for themselves in reduced running costs and long life. They are safer too. They run cool to avoid the chance of burning yourself on your desk lamp.
It is believed that a yellow cast to lighting can improve mood and productivity – perhaps because it subconsciously reminds us of summer sunshine. You can get bulbs with a ‘natural’ colour temperature which will deliver it, and may even help banish Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
Make sure you have plenty of power sockets too. Your phone will need charging – and, of course, there is your IT…
Getting the right IT
When you are working from home, there will be no IT expert to sort out problems for you, so it is worth getting a professional-quality laptop and broadband connection. Have a local, round-the-clock support team on speed dial so that if you do suddenly have any issues with your connection, you can get it fixed fast.
You may decide that a large monitor is a useful addition to your laptop. Most laptops are ready to link to a monitor just by plugging in, and the extra screen space really can be useful when it comes to productivity.
You will probably need a printer too, and choosing one which doubles as a scanner might be the most useful option. Unless your business is particularly document-heavy, a basic colour inkjet printer will be more than adequate.
Some people find that music provides a useful background, helping set a tempo for your work, and helping mask out distracting sounds from the rest of the home. Adding some speakers to your laptop may be the simplest way to provide it.
Your laptop will be the centre of your office setup, but one essential service that even the most advanced laptop cannot provide is making tea and coffee. You may need to add a kettle to your list of equipment to avoid the need for constant trips to the kitchen – which can eat into a surprising amount of productive time.
What will it all cost?
A professional laptop, plus a monitor, will probably cost £1200 plus, and you will need to budget for the software you need as well. You can get an office chair for under £100, although it might need replacing surprisingly quickly. Your desk, storage and other items might cost another £1000.
You might need to call in an electrician to add extra power points. This might cost £300 – £400 depending on what you have done.
The cost will be substantially higher if you need to build a garden office. Expect to pay £15,000 for a suitably-sized office that is constructed for year-round use, and includes heating and services. The cost should include delivery, providing a suitable base and building the office in your garden.
Paying for it all
Business funding experts Rangewell report that they are helping more small business owners and sole traders set up home offices. They suggest that Asset Funding, which can include both Hire Purchase and leasing, can provide the most cost-effective solutions. Spreading the cost can mean that you can afford the home office you want – without draining your new business of the cash it needs.
You can find out more about funding for your small business here.