According to a recent article in the Financial Times, there are currently 4.2 million people working from home in the UK, accounting for 13.9% of the working population. The vast majority of those are self-employed or freelancers – these can range from parents who are returning to the world of work after taking time out for their children or those embarking on a freelance career for the first time.
Thanks to the rise in technology options, from remote email to online conferencing for meetings, you can perform many of these roles from the comfort of your home.
Each freelancer is different, but there are a large number of benefits to working from home, including:
- A reduction in travel costs.
- A reduction in travel time, which means you can fit in more work – or perhaps a morning workout – before opening your laptop.
- Potential childcare cost reductions for those returning to work.
- The opportunity for a better working environment, especially if you prefer to work on your own.
- The ability to be creative with your environment (standing desk, anyone?)
- Wider range of potential clients. Many companies are happy to hire remotely, which means you could be working for a company with their head office in London, New York or Dubai.
- Wearing more comfortable clothes (although pyjamas at 3pm probably won’t give you the drive you need)
But, as with any work environment, you’ll need to make sure you’re set up to make the most of the working day, so here’s a few steps to ensure you’re as productive as possible.
Step 1: Assess your situation
Before you jump in to the redecorating stage, you need to work out whether working from home would suit you. Are you comfortable spending long periods of time working on your own? Is it physically possible to do the majority of your work from home?
If you identify as an extrovert, with a desire to work around and with others, a co-working office where you can work alongside other freelancers in a shared office space, may be more suitable. In fact, Regus are currently opening up a series of office that encourage freelancers, interns and companies to co-work together as part of their Regus Connect project.
Step 2: Choose a room
Which room would you use for your home office? Ideally, you’re looking for a spare room in your home. The lounge is too comfortable and too close to the distraction of the TV, the kitchen has its own distraction of food and the bedroom makes it far too tempting to take an afternoon nap. Converting a spare room is the ideal option, or perhaps consider a home office in the garden. Have a look at Work From Home Wisdom for some inspiration from other homeworkers.
Step 3: Check your legalities
It’s easy to overlook the more administrative side of setting up your home office but there’s a lot you need to consider. Will people need to visit you in your home office? Do you employ anyone else who also works from home?
You may need to assess your insurance cover for these areas, including Professional Indemnity, Public Liability, and Employers’ Liability insurance. Additionally, make sure you check your home insurance as it may not cover items you use for business.
Step 4: Check your working environment
You’re going to be spending quite a bit of time in your home office, so you need to make sure that the area is comfortable. Will it be warm enough in winter? Cool enough in summer? Will you be constantly fiddling with the thermostat?
Make sure you have enough space to work in and that your desk and chair are appropriately set up. Don’t be afraid to invest in a good office chair in particular – your back will thank you in the long run. Make sure you’re getting enough natural light and air too.
If you are planning to work from home whilst being employed by someone else, they may need to visit the room you’re planning to work in and assess whether it’s suitable. You can find more information on the health and safety side on the HSE website.
Step 5: Are you tech ready?
There are some practical, technological things to think about too with a home office. Do you have access to good wi-fi, internet, phone signal and lots of plug sockets? Can you hear the doorbell if it goes off? Invest in a remote doorbell box if you don’t, as the postman is likely to be a lifeline for offline communication.
Step 6: Who do you share a home with?
If you’re planning to work from home and you live with others, be aware that there may be teething problems at first. Freelancers who work from home often complain that other people (both in the house and visitors) don’t respect work hours as much, or expect the homeworker to do more house chores as they work from home. Additionally, it can be harder to switch off from work at the end of the day.
For freelancers with children, working from home can be a balancing act – you can be flexible with your hours to work around childcare, but working while looking after young children can be distracting.
Step 7: Have fun with the design
Having a home office gives you the freedom to decorate and design it to suit your exact needs. Fill it with things that make you motivated and happy – after all, you will be spending an average of eight hours a day in it. Head to Pinterest for some inspiration if you’re stuck.
At Hiscox, we work with self employed individuals across the UK, providing freelance insurance to protect home-based businesses from the risks they face. Even with the perfect business set-up, you may still encounter risks such as equipment damage or even unwittingly cause damage to a client. Hiscox are able to offer support with tailored insurance and years of experience handling claims against self-employed professionals.
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