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10 benefits and disadvantages of working from home

5-minute read

10 benefits and disadvantages of working from home
Anna Delves / Lauren Hellicar

Anna Delves / Lauren Hellicar

17 March 2020

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When you go self-employed, you’re faced with a choice – rent office space or work from home?

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For many, it makes sense to work from home at the start, but when your business really takes off and you need to think about next steps, it’s worth considering whether home working is sustainable for you in the long term.

We’ve listed 10 advantages and disadvantages of working from home to help you decide what kind of space works best for you.

Advantages of working from home

For some self-employed people, a home office is the best solution. Here are some of the main advantages of working from home over working elsewhere.

1. It cuts out the commute

Commuting can be a real drag. Whether it’s a two-hour train journey, an hour’s drive or a 20-minute walk, it takes time out of your day that you’ll never get back – and that’s before you take into account how long it takes to get ready in the morning.

When you work from home, you can be at your desk (or the kitchen table) and ready to work within a few minutes of waking up, or getting some exercise in before you get stuck into your tasks – instead of stuck in traffic or crammed into a train carriage.

2. It costs less

The cost of office space can be high, depending on your particular needs and location, and if you’re just working by yourself it can feel like an unnecessary expense.

Whether you work from home or rent office space, you can claim some of the costs back, either as part of your tax-deductible self-employed expenses or as part of your capital allowance, but you can’t claim for buying or building a business premises.

3. It gives you more flexibility with your home life

Sometimes there are things you just need to be at home for. Whether it’s waiting in for the plumber or a parcel, if you’re working from home anyway then you have the flexibility to deal with the unexpected.

On top of that, there are the everyday tasks you can fit in around your work – from laundry to receiving online grocery deliveries. If you need a screen break or a rest from a manual task, you might have time to pop in a load of laundry or wash a few breakfast dishes before getting back to work.

4. You can set it up however you want

Maybe you need to be surrounded by plants, or keep your office environment at a certain temperature. Maybe you work best on the sofa with your laptop on your lap. Being at home gives you lots of flexibility when it comes to your workspace preferences.

Office spaces – particularly shared office spaces – can have more restrictions on what you are and aren’t allowed to do. Plus, if you spend money on decorating a rented space and then have to move out, you’ll be out of pocket in terms of time and effort, as well as money.

5. It’s more eco-friendly

Whether you drive or use public transport to get to your office, you’re increasing your carbon footprint. Working from home automatically takes that out of the equation.

In a rented office space, you’ll be constrained by the environmental practices of the whole building. They may not recycle or adhere to energy-efficient policies. When you work from home, you have much more control over how green your business is.

Disadvantages of working from home

While there are plenty of plus points to home working, there are some downsides, which mean it won’t work as a long-term solution for some people. Here are the disadvantages to consider before setting up a home office.

1. You can get easily distracted

Whether it’s children, pets, or that slightly odd noise your boiler keeps making, it can be a lot easier to take your attention away from your work in the comforts of your own home than in the purpose-built environment of a professional office.

And comfort can be part of the problem. While there might not be anything in particular happening that distracts you from work, the fact you’re in your home surroundings may tempt you into relaxation, and before you know it you’re checking Instagram instead of getting on with things.

If you know you’re prone to distraction, setting up a space in your home that’s just for work may make it easier to separate your work and home life.

2. You can become isolated

When you work on your own it’s easy to become shut off from the world around you, and even more so when you’re not leaving the house for work.

If you tend to go stir crazy or need the moral support of other people around you, it may be better to look into shared office spaces – or plan lots of events and get-togethers outside of work to make sure you’re getting enough human contact.

3. It’s harder to switch off

It’s 7pm and you get an email from a client. Do you open it? If you open it, do you respond? And if they ask you for a piece of work, do you get started on it?

When you leave an office at 5pm on the dot it’s easy to declare work over for the day, but when you work from home those boundaries can get blurred.

It’s important to make sure you have down time from your work, so much like those who’re easily distracted, setting up a designated area in your house for work can help make the work/home boundary more defined.

4. It’s easy to stagnate

When you work outside your own home, each day brings many more experiences than if you don’t leave. Whether it’s an interesting view on your commute, a conversation that changes your perspective, or just seeing something other than the four walls you live in, the little differences in your day can help stop you from getting into a rut.

If you do work from home, make sure to get up and see the outside world every now and then, whether that’s sitting in the garden for a while or going for a short walk.

5. It’s harder to accommodate clients and employees

One of the biggest downsides to a home office is that it can be more restrictive if you work with clients and employees. When you first go self-employed, you may not want to take on any employees, but meeting clients could be important for your business.

Coming across as professional can be important for securing business, which for some types of work could well rule out meeting at your house. Having an office space solves that problem. If you prefer to work from home, there’s always the option to meet clients in nice cafés or, in the case of particularly important meetings, you could rent office space for the day.

As for employees, it may be harder to convince people to come to your house to work. Hiring people to work remotely is one way to get around this obstacle, if working from home is a priority for you.

Do you run your business from home or from an office? Or is it for financial and logistical reasons? Let us know in the comments.

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