Setting-up a home office may seem like a big task, but it doesn’t have to set you back big bucks.
Business magnates the world over are divided on the issue of working away from the office. Virgin tycoon, Richard Branson (of Necker Island remote working fame), is a huge fan whereas Yahoo chief executive, Marissa Mayer, has been quite outspoken in extolling the virtues of cultivating an office culture (one of her inaugural acts as new CEO was to call for all remote working staff to return to the office pronto).
Research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) published in 2017 shows a 19% increase in the number of people who frequently work from home since 2005. Over 1.5 million people now regularly work from home across the UK - up from 1.2 million in 2005.
Why work from home?
Home working saves you time and money. Not only that, setting-up a home office goes some way to showing HMRC that you’re “in business on your own account,” which is critical to staying outside the clutches of IR35.
Working from the comfort and convenience of your own home involves using all the latest tech at your disposal, such as two-in-one laptops, “phablets” (phone and tablet hybrids), smartphones – basically, anything to stay connected with colleagues and clients alike.
Whether you’re employed by a firm or organisation and use your home as an occasional base, or you’re self-employed and work almost exclusively from home, having a fully-functional home working environment doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
You'll need to be sure that your home is suitable for working from, though - think about the surrounding environment. It's going to be difficult to concentrate if you live opposite somewhere noisy, for example.
Of course, you're unlikely to just be able to just up-sticks if you're living in a house that doesn't lend itself to working from home, but you need to properly consider whether your surroundings are going to lend themselves to productivity.
Hold on to what you have
After you’ve set up shop in a spare room, basement, attic, or simply cordoned off an area of your living room, don’t make a beeline for the shops to buy office furniture just yet.
That cutesy-looking table in the IKEA catalogue may well fit perfectly in your newfound spot, but why not use what you already have? You’re bound to find some treasures if you hunt around long enough for items like filing cabinets, lamps, stationery supplies from the days of yonder - the whole nine yards.
Two items of furniture you may want to invest in are a decent desk and chair – particularly if you spend hour upon hour tapping away on a computer.
Research from the British Psychological Society shows that, on average, office workers spend five hours and 41 minutes a day sitting at their desk. If your line of work puts you squarely into this category, an adjustable standing desk could be just what the doctor ordered.
Standing rather than sitting slashes the chances of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and cancer. You also burn more calories, so your waistline will thank you for it (even if your feet don’t).
Buy budget home office gear
Buying budget doesn’t necessarily mean buying below par.
For basic office supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, sticky notes and such, you can avoid being fleeced by the larger stationery chains by opting to buy them from discount shops.
If you’re missing any furniture items, why not visit your local flea market? Even with modest negotiation skills, you can cut a deal on pretty much anything, including one-off antique pieces that could give your home office that va-va-voom.
Seize the sales
Setting-up a home office is a marathon, not a sprint.
Even though it feels like you need everything yesterday, some items on your wish list can wait until tomorrow. So, make a list of everything you need and make a point of buying things as and when they’re on sale. After all, who doesn’t love to bag a bargain?
Go back to bartering
Bartering may be an ancient practice, but it still has some modern use.
If posting ads in the “wanted” section on eBay or Gumtree isn’t for you, the back-to-basics concept of bartering may well be.
Connect with your network of friends, family and colleagues and consider offering your professional services in exchange for whatever items they have going spare that happen to be on your list. You won’t have to part with your pennies, but you will have to part with your time. If you fancy broadening your horizons beyond your buddies, take a look at these bartering websites.
Lose your landline
Once you’ve set-up your home office, you’ll want to continue making savings when you’re actually up-and-running.
So, avoid using conventional fixed landline phones like your life depended on it. Instead, shoot for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, which places and transmits calls over an internet connection.
Skype and Vonage are popular VoIP providers. Skype offers free calls between Skype users and low-cost calls to landlines and mobiles while selected Vonage plans offer free unlimited calls to UK landlines and mobiles. What is more, because VoIP is internet-based, it’s as mobile as your office is.
Maximise multi-functional devices
If you have the opportunity to buy an all-in-one printer, scanner and copier, for example, rather than separate machines, grab it with both hands.
Whilst it’s true that multi-functional devices will likely be of inferior quality to single-purpose machines, unless you’re working in the creative space – such as arts and crafts – most people won’t bat an eyelid and you shouldn’t either.
Remember to claim
If you're self-employed, you can claim many of your home office purchases as business expenses. For more information, check out our article “Working from home? What you can and can’t claim as an expense”.
With a lot of creativity and a little bit of patience, you can set-up a home office that rivals the very best of them – installing a high-tech, fully-functional outfit that’s almost as good as you being in the office itself. All of this is possible without breaking a sweat (or breaking the bank).
If you want a breakdown of what you can and can't claim that you can download and keep for reference, check out our PDF Business Guide linked below.
And don't forget to leave the house
Make sure you get out once in a while, even if you're taking your work with you. Cafes and coworking spaces are always a great option for you if you just need to break from the norm and work someone different.
Whether you're planning on working in a new environment or just popping to the shops to get some milk, don't underestimate the importance of getting out and about. Working from home can feel like a new, liberating lease on life at the start, but like anything, you can have too much of a good thing. Get some fresh air, work within new walls and enjoy the freedom self-employment allows you.
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