Setting up your home office

Want to shun the corporate office in search of a more flexible working life? You’re not alone. There are thought to be 1.5 million people who now work from home in the UK.

Flexible working offers considerable benefits, but if you’re truly making the leap to home working there’s a lot to consider too. This guide outlines the pros and cons of working from home and tells you what to consider when setting up your first home office.

But first - are you going freelance or are you with an employer?
If you currently work for an employer and want to stay with them but work from home, you have the legal right to ask your employer if you can work flexibly (if you have been with them for 26 weeks or more). You should formally write to your employer and make the case for working flexibly. They are required to consider your application and can only refuse if there are genuine business reasons for doing so. Find out more about the right to request.

If you decide to step into the world of freelance work, then the world’s your oyster. You’re free to work from wherever you want - home, library, co-working space, wherever, as well as setting your own hours. There are plenty of good things about freelance working, but be warned that you won’t get the same benefits as those who are on payroll, such as holiday and sick pay.

Benefits of working from home
No commute - save travel costs.
No need to meet a dress code.
Better work-life balance.
Set your own hours (if you’re freelance).

Disadvantages of working from home
You must be self-motivated and disciplined.
Less social contact with colleagues.
Can be difficult to separate your home working space from the rest of your house.
You are less visible to your boss, so they can’t see exactly what you’re doing.

That isn’t to say those disadvantages can’t be overcome, however. Here are five steps to take to setting up a home office that works for you.

If you can invest, do so
You will probably be a more productive home worker if you have a proper home office space to work in, rather than basing yourself at a desk in the corner of the living room. If you’re able to invest in developing a space and buying some equipment - laptop, printer, phone etc - then consider doing so, especially if flexible working will be a long-term thing for you.

Focus on organisation
As we explain above, losing focus and motivation can happen when working from home. Away from the structure of the office, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and lose track. While some critics think this means home workers have an easier time, often it means you have to work later than planned as your lost focus puts you behind. To tackle this, borrow some rigid techniques from the corporate office - have set start, lunch and finish times and always plan out your day before commencing work.

Set up a line of communication with your employer
Because you’re not in the office, management can’t see what you’re doing. This makes your work less tangible. In order to make sure your output is recognised, keep in regular contact with your team so they know you’re around and they know you’re working. You could send an email each morning plotting out your day’s schedule and regular catch-up calls.

Consider home business insurance
Taking out home business insurance can be a good idea, especially if you’ll be running a business from home and will be meeting clients there regularly, as well as holding stock. If your stock is damaged or someone has an accident in your property, you could be liable.

Draw a line between the personal and the professional
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when working from home is stopping your personal life weaving its way into your professional one. This can create all sorts of problems and end up meaning you spend more time in your home office than you do with your family and friends. Make sure your home office is exactly that: a home office that you only use to do paid work from. At the end of the working day, shut the door and only return the next working day. You could also set up a separate bank account for your business earnings and expenses, to ensure they don’t get mixed in with your personal finances.