Home sweet home--as a homebased business owner, that perennial country sampler phrase encompasses your world. From sharing lunch with your kids in the kitchen and your hallway commute to your linen closet-cum-storage room, your home is your life. So why would you ever give up your home office?
Depending on which camp you reside in, your answer may be a simple "Hell no, I won't go!" or the appreciably more complex, "It's inevitable. My kids (and spouse) don't understand the concept of a closed door. I have no space. The refrigerator and television constantly beckon to me." But no matter what the problem, is it really necessary to (gasp!) find an office away from home?
Moving On Out
Several years ago, a friend asked me when I was going to get a "real office." Puzzled, I asked her what she meant. "You know," she said, "a place you drive to every day." A home office can be a real office, but as your business grows, you'll probably need to move on and out of your home office.
Many of my clients have taken the leap from a home office to an out-of-the-home office for several reasons:
- Interruptions. As one client's family grew, his inability to work uninterrupted (as well as his growing responsibility to serve as the backup babysitter on a regular basis) affected his bottom line and his relationship with his family. What initially was an ideal working situation for his freelance writing business became his worst nightmare. He missed deadlines, alienated clients and reached his wit's end on a daily basis. His choices were to continue a less-than-ideal work situation or relocate his office. The choice was obvious.
- Loneliness. Some people work better alone, while others need to be surrounded by people to stay motivated. These people thrive on the communal office energy that can't be recreated at home. These "people persons" are more productive in an outside office than they'll ever be at home. Instead of trying to overcompensate for being home alone by playing loud music, visiting neighbors or running an excessive amount of errands, move out.
One client, a sales rep who always considered himself productive, finally realized that his personality was better suited for an outside office. He took the time to dress for work each day and diligently made it to his desk by 9 a.m. each morning. By 11 a.m., however, his energy waned, his mind wandered, and he often rushed to make lunch plans with colleagues or anyone else he could find. After moving to an outside office with other business professionals nearby, his productivity soared along with his income.
- Growth. A successful business is a curse and a blessing rolled into one. A growing business requires more room, equipment and storage space. It may also require employees--and here's where things really get crowded. It's important for an office staff to be able to work well together, but asking them to work on top of one another is asking too much. At that point, you'll need to rent outside space unless you're willing to renovate your home to create more office space. Zoning laws may also restrict you from running a homebased business with more than one employee.
Pros and Cons
The advantages of moving out of your home office boil down to increased professionalism, more space to work and unlimited growth potential. Of course, with any advantage come a few disadvantages, but nothing that can't be overcome:
- Your daily commute will be longer (and not on foot), but if your office is located near your home, the lost time and frustration should be minimal.
- You'll need to furnish your office professionally. The dining room chair doubling as an office chair will have to go-especially since clients will be visiting your office.
- Your overhead will increase, but your revenues could grow proportionately as you attract larger or more clients.
Making the decision to move your office out of your home may be easier than deciding where to move. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you want a shared office suite vs. an office you rent by yourself? The advantage of a shared suite is obvious: You share the cost of the office and receptionist with others. You can rent one or several offices and make use of the community conference room. You'll save a bit on rent and eliminate any loneliness issues you may have had when you worked from home.
- Can you find an office close to your home and avoid a long commute? The less time you waste driving to work, the more time you'll have to work.
- Can you sign a short-term lease (one year or less) in case your new arrangement doesn't work out as planned? A short-term lease will also be handy if you need more space or add more staff as your business continues to grow and need more space.
When You Really Don't Want to Leave...
Relocating a home office isn't for everyone. When future growth, your bottom line and your professionalism are at stake, however, you've got to do something--and if you're completely opposed to moving out, here are some other ideas:
- If you're running out of space, move to a new home with a bigger office. Or build your own home, designing your new office for your every anticipated need and want.
- Reinvent your present office by hiring a professional organizer to help you make the best use of your space.
- Turn an unused room in your home into a storage facility, warehouse or a second office for employees.
- Outsource work to other free agents instead of trying to squeeze employees into your already packed space.
- Utilize business centers. These temporary offices provide a traditional office space for you to work in, and usually come with amenities like internet access, videoconferencing, conference space, office equipment like copiers, and even receptionists.
Brother home office expert Lisa Kanarek advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and writes the blog Working Naked. She is the author of several books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life.