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How to set up a home office (without breaking the bank)

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).


Leading opinions aside, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people working from home has reached its highest level since records started in 1998. And according to research, the number of home workers increased from 3.4 million to 4.2 million between 2005 and 2015. Home workers now account for 13.9 per cent of the working population – up from 12 per cent in 2005. In a nutshell, nearly one in seven people work from home.


Home office


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.


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?


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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 a 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.


Don’t forget 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 business expenses guide.


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).


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