Home Sweet Home-Office: The Pitfalls & the Pleasures

home officeMany businesses begin in the home, and many long standing businesses don’t require the trappings (and expense) of a separate office location. The advantages of a home office can be many, as long as being at home doesn’t affect your productivity.

In order to achieve optimal productivity, you need to take into consideration both the pleasures and the pitfalls of working in a home environment.

The Pleasures of Working from the Home

Making the carpet commute: Who wouldn’t want a daily commute of 30 feet? The obvious benefit to the carpet commute is the significant savings in transportation costs. The elimination of a 30 minute or 90 minute commute increases available working hours, eliminates commutation expenses and frees up  time that can be spent with family or other endeavors.

Everything’s a write off: Well, not everything, however, many expenses are deductible including mortgage, utilities and maintenance related to the portion of the house dedicated to the home office.

Personal Impact: You can multi-task some of the ongoing chores of life while at home, provided you don’t let them become distractions. If you have young children or aging parents, being at home can allow you to more easily care for them as well.

The Pitfalls

Distractions of home life: Even if your home office is sealed off from the rest of the house, the distractions of family life and the home are bound to creep into the business day. It’s hard to totally absolve yourself of the obligations of parenting, or ignore the knocks at the door, or the need to finish the laundry.

Distractions lie in wait in the form of the televisions, swimming pools, or an inviting lounge chair beckoning you for a nap. If you’re not a self disciplined person, it may require that you work at developing the skills and habits needed to maintain your focus.

Working too long: With everything at your fingertips, and no commute to force you out of the office, it is sometimes tempting to keep pounding away from dawn to dusk. This can throw life out of balance and adversely affect your health and the health of your relationships with your family and friends. It is important to maintain balance and, if it requires that you actually schedule time for exercise, family fun and social networking into your calendar, then so be it.

Going stir crazy: Sometimes when people strike out on their own, they miss the companionship and collegiality of interacting with other staff members. To avoid going stir crazy from the isolation of working alone, it’s important to find ways to maintain interaction with associates and colleagues.   As part of your scheduling, plan activities around business and social networks that will ensure that you stay engaged with the outside world.

Maintaining a professional image: Although home-based businesses are becoming more prevalent, business owners face the challenge of being able to present themselves as legitimate and professional when engaging with prospects, clients or vendors. Just because you are operating in jeans and a tee shirt doesn’t mean that you can afford to be too casual in the face you show to the business world.

A professional image can be supported by the use of quality letterhead and business cards, a well-designed website and possibly even a virtual office presence. If your business requires face-to-face conferences or client meetings, conference space can be rented by the day at some business centers. Some of these centers also “rent” out a postal address that you can use as your business location.

The decision to work from a home office can be very rewarding in a number of ways. With the proper perspective and some discipline, the pitfalls can be avoided and optimal productivity can be achieved.

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