To work from home or not to work from home?

That is the question faced by many freelancers today? And in honour of the 400th anniversary of The Great Bard’s last words (a freelancer who apparently worked from home a lot), I thought it might be worthy of discussion.

An IPSE survey, in 2011, suggested that 12% of freelancers choose to work from home while around 25% said that they regularly commuted between 20 and 50 miles each day to their client’s premises. Others worked closer or further away and some rented/shared office space or hotdesking sites. Some had even built a specialised office-pod in their back garden.

What are the pros and cons?

I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong answer, but I know for sure that to work from home properly you need to be disciplined and organised – or you are destined to fail. In addition to that, having access to good Wi-Fi and other IT equipment that you might need is a massive benefit. So, if you have the right mindset and the right tools all of the following benefits can be yours:

Illustrative representation of Shakespeare's desk
Illustrative representation of Shakespeare’s desk
  • Low overheads, travel and operational costs
  • Avoid commuting stress and time wasted in traffic jams
  • Flexibility of working hours (discipline alert!)
  • No interruptions from ‘office banter’
  • Able to help with domestic chores (discipline alert)
  • Tax efficiencies of having a ‘home office’

Interestingly, some of the benefits above appear in the cons list too. So, here are a few of the negatives associated with working from home:

  • No interactions from ‘office banter’ – leaving you isolated or bored
  • The clash of family demands and working life
  • Distractions from working in an overly relaxed environment
  • Working longer hours and not switching off
  • Spatial restrictions to growing or developing the business
  • Physical distance from clients stops your relationship developing

In the end, it is down to the individual and each person’s personal work habits, strengths, weaknesses, and goals. As Shakespeare said in King John, “Strong reasons make strong actions” so the most important thing is to strategically decide which best fits your character and your bigger picture.

Here are a few more thoughts about workspace, regardless of whether it is in a home office, business office or garden shed:

  • Get a comfortable chair, especially if you work at a computer
  • Position your screen, desk and environment ergonomically
  • Have regular breaks and try to talk to other ‘real’ people
  • Create times where you can work undisturbed
  • Get the right IT equipment for your work and good Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Treat work as a work and home as home

If you would like more information about the legal or tax implications of working from home versus from a client’s premises (as a freelancer or contractor) please get in touch.

If you have any thoughts, comments, experience or advice that you can share about the pros and cons of working at home or in an office – please feel free to add your comments here.