Working from home is not an option for everyone. But for those who have the choice to do so, there are several factors to consider. Strategist and marketing expert Ed Hatton, who has been working from home for 25 years, offered his tips and advice for those thinking about working from their personal environment.
Hatton told Redi Tlhabi that there is a case for working from home thanks to electronic aids such as video conferencing, e-mail and instant chat; and that today business success is determined very differently than from in the past.
Here’s what to keep in mind before converting your kitchen into a conference room:
1. Your personality type
Hatton says that individuals looking to work from home need to have a reasonable amount of self-discipline. He said that both extroverts and introverts work well at home, depending on the level of external interactions required by their work.
You have to suit your practices with your personality.
2. The nature of the business
Hatton suggests that the type of business operations one does will dictate if working from home is feasible or not. Often location based businesses or those that require a lot of physical contact with consumers are harder to run from one’s own living space.
3. Some of the pros
- Hatton says working from home is certainly convenient in terms of avoiding unnecessary travel and traffic on the way to conventional offices.
Rae in Krugersdorp works from home and runs a factory with other employees. She said it was the best decision she’s ever made because she can work whenever she wants. Hatton says the challenge with that is that it becomes easy to be consumed by work, and people can often neglect themselves and others in their homes.
- Working from home is certainly cheaper than renting or buying formal office space, and the economics of home-office space is appealing to many start-up companies.
4. Some of the cons
Inviting clients, suppliers and other people into your home places one’s personal security at a higher risk. Hatton advises that individuals must be aware of the implications that are created by exposing their homes to a range of people. He says it is important to ensure that one’s home is carefully controlled.
- Working from home, depending on who the space is shared with, comes with additional distractions. Children, partners and pets can often come in the way of one’s productivity.
Thabo in Mamelodi says that, after moving back home to run his business, he realised that he spent more on fuel and electricity. He also added that load shedding was major hindrance to his operation.
Sometimes it’s not necessarily cheaper or easier to work from home.
Household expenses may increase. Hatton advises that business expenses should be charged to the business in terms of taxes.
Certainly, your business work should not put additional stress on your household budget.
5. The importance of establishing boundaries
Hatton says that boundaries are critical to a successful home-office environment. An individual needs to set boundaries for themselves and for those whom they share living space with. Here are some examples:
- Time boundaries It is important to create and commit to daily working hours.
- Physical boundaries Hatton suggests that certain spaces are off-limits to children, partners or pets, and exclusively reserved for productive work purposes.
- Boundaries for household duties For a more effective work space, individuals must discern which errands and chores are applicable to them and which are unrelated to work, assigning them to another person or time of day.
- Boundaries are two-sided Hatton noted that there is often difficulty separating familial time and work time. In this sense, boundaries must be created to prevent home life from distracting the individual from work and to prevent work from distracting them from their home life.
The discipline works two ways. You have to reserve time for your family, and there has to be boundaries to ensure that work does not intrude on your family. You have to put those boundaries in place as well.
Jasper in Kempton Park says that to get into "corporate mode", he starts a routine that is similar to the one he would adopt if he would go to conventional offices. He wakes up at a strict time, showers and then puts on work appropriate attire to prepare himself for the day at his home office.
According to Hatton, “getting dressed appropriately for work does set you in the mindset for work.”
6. Co-working space as an alternative choice
Wesley in Johannesburg, co-owner of co-working space called Open, advised that co-working spaces are effective alternatives to working at home.
The evolution of the work space has created this desire for people to either work from home or in alternative spaces like coffee shops. Globally, the trend is to work in communities like co-working spaces… From a cost point of view, setting up home offices are more cost effective than owning office space, but even co-working allows you to cut that cost that much more; and by so doing, access community and infrastructure that is shared.
Hattton says that co-working spaces have become a halfway house between the formal office environment and working from home. They offer an intermediary for businesses that don’t work well from home or don’t have sufficient space to do so and are attractive options for early stage entrepreneurs.
Clive, who works in real estate, built a separate building on his premises for work purposes after 15 years of working from home.
Sally in Rondebosch, whose husband works from home, says it’s given her family a better quality of life.
7. Laying the foundation for working from home
Hatton asserts that working from home is only one aspect of setting up or moving one’s business. He says the premises of your business are part of one’s planning, but the entirety of how your business is set up, is based on other factors, including but not limited to:
- The viability of the business
- The necessary business networks one must create
- The target market and intended consumer
- The potential suppliers and contractors
Working from home is among one of those considerations and should be planned and treated exactly the same.
Ed Hatton trades as The Marketing Director to advise and mentor entrepreneurs in both start-up and existing business.
Entrepreneur.com also lists 6 Best Practices for WorkingFrom Home.
Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Tlhabi Show: