I love those home-based business commercials that paint a mental picture of "working in your PJs.” While I certainly have worn my pajamas while conducting business from home, it's usually at 2 a.m., while frantically trying to beat a deadline. Just like weight-loss gimmicks and get-rich-quick infomercials, the home office often sounds better as a concept than it is in reality.
I've operated my feeble empire from my home office for the past 10 years. As I write this, I'm sitting with my shoes off, feet on my desk, and wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Ahhh, the life!
Not so fast, cowpoke...I've been sporting this look since I got back from the gym five hours ago and haven't even had the time to shower. I smell a little like a day-old Italian sub sandwich stuffed inside a wet work boot. Just one of the not-so-fringe-y benefits of laboring where you live. The line between on-duty and off-the-clock has a tendency to blur.
The main reasons I office from home are money and convenience. I don't have a lease, so I'm easily saving $8,000 a year, and saving money is good. I don't commute, so fuel and vehicle maintenance are minimal. Best of all, I don't worry about forgetting my briefcase back in the mudroom, as I rush out to face the daily grind.
Now let's look at the downsides. For starters, I have kids. Children of any age can be a challenge if you work at home and plan to accomplish anything . Younger children have no concept of "daddy's working," and older children just don't care. Whether it's "Oh no, I 'go-ed' poopy on Spiderman” (an actual utterance by my then three-year-old son while I was on a conference call) or "Dad, can you print my school report on 'Common Courtesy'?", plan on being interrupted in the middle of every call, project or fleeting thought. And it never gets better.
If you do decide to go the home office route, it's a good idea to have a dedicated (and if you have kids, lockable) work space. Spending valuable time looking for the stapler, or thumb-drive (that you swore you just left on the kitchen table), will eat up valuable chunks of the productivity that you thought you gained by making the move from headquarters to homestead.
Another challenge is perception. What do you say when a client asks, "Can we meet at your office?"
I've learned to head off that often uncomfortable situation by suggesting that we meet for coffee before the question even comes up. But what if it does? It's not a bad idea to have an agreement with a local who can provide you with a professional set up, if a scenario calls for it. Depending on the type of operation you're running, access to a finely wood-grained conference room might be a necessity. There are companies that provide meeting space on an as-needed basis. Local hotels can often provide for this need as well.
Another question you need to ask yourself is "What kind of worker/person am I?"
Speaking for myself as an ADD-suffering, free-spirit, often cranky caffeine addict, I find working from my personal climate-controlled cocoon a very good fit. Not perfect, but better than the alternative. I don't have to deal with stinky perfume or thermostat Nazis. I pretty much come and go as I please, and I'm (for the most part) self-motivated. Are you?
Can you trust yourself to be alone all day, without supervision, and still produce? Having ready access to all the comforts of home isn't a good idea if those things take your eye off the ball. TV will suck your day dry. Can you avoid the temptation of just one little episode of "Maury"?
Then there's that line between being on and off. The nice thing about having an offsite office is that you can, for the most part, shut down when you shut off the lights. Will you have the discipline to "call it a day" if your office is 10 feet away from the living room?
Just like entrepreneurialism , working from home is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a business decision. Kids, on the other hand....
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Chris Prickett is a successful entrepreneur who specializes in defying conventional thinking. He’s built and sold two companies and made many mistakes along the way. He started a Phoenix, Ariz.s, real estate business in 2007, during the worst market in modern history, and business is booming.