Should You Work From Home? Answer These 4 Questions

Break out your favorite coffee mug and your best pajamas: it’s Work From Home Week!

According to Fundera, 3.7 million employees worked from home at least part of the time in 2017. That number is undoubtedly higher for entrepreneurs, especially those who are preparing to launch or just launched their businesses.

There’s a lot to love about working from home: no dress code! Flexible hours! Play your music or Netflix shows as loudly as you want! And if you have pets, furry coworkers!

But there are some downsides, too — working from home isn’t for everyone, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense for your business.

As you ponder whether working from home is the best fit, answer the following four questions to help you decide your ideal office space scenario.

1. What are you local zoning regulations?

Start here, because this will determine if you can even work from home. Check your city regulations to see if they have any stipulations regarding home-based businesses. You may also want to check with your homeowner’s association or landlord to ensure that all of your bases are covered.

If you do find something that prevents you from working from home, it might be tempting to see if you can sneak under the radar, especially if money to secure office space is tight. Don’t do it! Part of being a successful entrepreneur is adhering to a variety of laws, regulations and guidelines, and you don’t want to risk getting your business in trouble.

2. Can you afford an office?

Budget is one of the biggest factors in determining whether you work from home, opt for a desk or office at a co-working space or buy or lease your own office space. Early-stage entrepreneurs, who are still building capital and revenue, are more likely to start out working from home, then expand to an outside office space as their budget allows.

If you find yourself going stir-crazy or in need of human interaction but you can’t afford to lease or buy office space, do a little research to see what’s available in your area. Many coworking buildings, for example, will offer one day a week of free space so that anyone can drop by and work (space permitting). You could always post up for a few hours at your neighborhood coffee shop. Public libraries are another popular option, especially if you prefer a quieter atmosphere.

3. How much space do you need?

Assess your business and your workflow. If you need room for production, assembly or shipping, for example, you may find that a home office doesn’t quite cut it.

As you assess your space needs, turn a critical eye to your home. Do you have any unused space that you could use for your business, not including a work area? We strongly suggest keeping your workspace and living areas separate, if at all possible. Work-life balance boundaries — already a struggle for entrepreneurs — can easily blur when you live and work in the same place. Your commute might only be a flight of stairs or even a few steps, but giving yourself a dedicated workspace can help you maintain the separation you need to keep yourself from overwork-induced burnout.

If you do have room to accommodate your workflow — at least to start — you can furnish the space without derailing your budget. Try a kitchen supply store for affordably priced, industrial shelves that are ideal for a variety of storage. A desk or table is, of course, a must, and if you do spend a little more money, invest in a quality office chair that provides plenty of support. Make sure you have a stock of office supplies, including printer ink or toner and paper, pens, mailing and shipping supplies, filing folders, notepads and a stapler, just to name a few.

4. Can you maintain your ideal output (and stay on track) at home?

One of the challenges of working from home is that it can be difficult to maintain a consistent schedule. You might find you have interruptions at home, for example, especially if the kids are home from school or your pets want some extra attention.

It’s also easy to let your attention wander at home. You might step away from your desk to take care of a couple of chores, or grab a quick nap. And then there’s that pesky TV that’s beckoning you to Netflix and binge.

Of course, maybe you’re incredibly disciplined and you can work anytime, any place, no matter what’s happening around you. (If so, teach us your secrets!) But it’s worth keeping an open mind as you start working from home. If you’re curious about how much you’re working, try using a time-tracker app. And don’t be afraid to set (and spread the word about) your schedule. Let’s say you worked 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an office. Family members, friends and peers would generally respect that time, right? It shouldn’t be any different when you work from home. Establish your working hours, and give yourself a couple of short breaks and lunchtime.

And if, after a few months, you find that you really can’t get much done working from home, that’s OK. Check your budget and see what your options are for office space.

Ready for a bonus tip? If you do work from home, be sure to check with your accountant to see what expenses you might be able to deduct from your taxes. This is when dedicated office space within your home comes in handy: you can measure the square footage of your work space, then calculate (and deduct) that percentage of your rent or mortgage. Again, check with your accountant to understand all of your options and ensure you’re maximizing every possible deduction.

Now you’re ready to make an informed decision about whether working from home is right for you and your business. To those entrepreneurs who already work from home, we raise our coffee cups to you. Happy Work From Home Week!

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