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There’s no place like home. Especially if you’re a small business. This is how a vast number of start-ups begin, with one of the most famous being, of course, Apple. The garage initially used by Steve Jobs at his family’s modest ranch-style home in Los Altos, California, was even granted historic site status in 2013.
Most start-up entrepreneurs – like Jobs – have no choice but to carve out a space for themselves in the home, be it at the dining table after clearing away the dinner plates, the box room or the loft. In fact, ‘home-based’ doesn’t have to mean in the house. The Guardian has estimated that 80,000 workers in the UK are commuting only as far as the bottom of their garden. Options range from fairly basic garden sheds to luxury spaces whose cost rivals that of an extension. Fully fitted with utilities and away from the bustle of family life, this can be the ideal space from which to build a business.
If there’s just one of you, that is. The question arises as to what happens when work increasingly needs delegating. Or when specific skills are needed to move the business forward a notch. Whether considering a partnership or taking on employees, sitting them at the bottom of your garden, or making them step over the kids’ schoolbags before they start their day’s work isn’t really an option.
Working from home can begin as a very workable solution for entrepreneurs but can very suddenly become something that can hold a business back. Without anywhere to put an extra body, the business can’t expand. One alternative is to ensure all staff work from home; with technology allowing communication by services such as Skype, email, Viber and online meeting platforms, the virtual office can indeed be a communal one, unhindered by time zones and physical space. Or can it? What if the ideal candidate lives with three friends? Or in a rural village where broadband is temperamental?
Many start-ups will not get to the stage where they need to take on staff; but if they do, then moving out of the albeit convenient home office may be the only choice.
Here are some signs that setting up an office elsewhere might one day be the best idea you ever had.
1 – Client Meetings Become Coffee Mornings
Would you feel comfortable seeing clients at home? Some businesses, it is true, will never meet a client face to face; every aspect of a project can be carried out remotely. However, there are few businesses that wouldn’t benefit from direct client contact on occasion, particularly where those clients are long-term or regular ones. Putting a face to a name can be worth just as much as a job well done. Clients often like to see where their contracted-out work is being carried out; and there’s no doubt that many a work-from-homer would rather their clients didn’t see exactly how their home office looks…
2 – Work Life Balance or Work Life “Integration”?
Do you find your work–life balance is skewed? Many people decide to work from home because they believe it will give them a better quality of home and family life while allowing them to concentrate on work without the interruptions of colleague and the fire drill. However, all too often, the time saved in the commute is simply spent in the office instead, or – more likely – glued to a smartphone. With technology becoming not just at our fingertips, but attached to them, it is harder for even traditional office workers to draw a line between work and home. This distinction becomes even more blurred, and even erased, when all work is carried out within the same walls as the family, the TV and the kitchen.
3 – Losing Control?
While outsourcing is one option for the overworked entrepreneur, and can leave your home-office circumstances intact, many feel that this requires them to give up too much control over the business they have worked so hard to build. You may need to consider if you need an assistant to help with the more basic jobs, in which case a move to a small serviced office with a junior PA might be all that is needed. However, you may feel that taking on someone – or more than one – with deeper knowledge or a more diverse skill-set than you have will help to expand your business in the direction you want to take it. In this case you may need a bigger workspace, with areas for meetings, brainstorming, and good-quality facilities and equipment for your newest, most valuable investment: new members of staff.
4 – Overcrowding
Working from home may be going perfectly, but personal circumstances can change. The children who, when young, happily shared a bedroom may now insist on their own space and the privacy that goes with that. There goes your home office. And once you’ve already emigrated from the dining room table, it’s almost an impossible job to move back there. When space in the home runs out, the only option is to move out. Try this handy office space calculator to work out how much space you’ll need.
5 – Too many distractions
Most people who successfully run a start-up are disciplined and focused. Yet even the best and most dedicated can become distracted by coffee machines, daytime TV, family members (who conveniently ‘forget’ that you’re supposed to be working), urgent housework requirements, housekeeping phone calls, or watching the neighbour chase round his front garden with his leaf-blower. If working at home really does cause too many distractions, moving out into an office may be the obvious solution. For those tempted, many cities host work hubs, run by not-for-profit organisations, charities or councils, where you can plug your laptop in and try the not-working-from-home alternative before taking the permanent plunge.
6 – So Lonely
There’s no getting away from the fact that many home workers are lonely. While getting away from colleagues you don’t much care for can be a big draw to working from home, there have been innumerable articles written about how the lack of colleagues and other direct human contact can leave home workers unmotivated and without a support system – however entertaining the leaf-blowing neighbour might be. For many people, this sense of isolation takes them by surprise and is not easy to overcome, and in such circumstances, moving to an office, especially one that houses similar small businesses and in an environment that encourages social, not to mention networking, opportunities and interaction, can be the step it takes to focus once again on the business.
The small business and SME in the UK is a major player in the UK economy, with home working increasingly popular. It’s a great place to start. But in an office is a great place to grow.
This news was brought to you by Morgan Pryce, a specialist tenant acquisition agent with offices in Oxford Circus and the City. Morgan Pryce specialises in search, negotiation and project management and works exclusively for tenants.