There are now 2.5 million people who operate their business from home, but is this the future of the workplace or a necessary reaction to the economic climate…
By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter, The London Economic
According to new analysis from Direct Line for Business (DL4B) two and a half million people – representing 52 per cent of the total number of UK small businesses and eight per cent of the UK’s total workforce – work from home.
To someone who also works from home this figure seemed surprising. There can be times it feels like there is only me in the world, but it is reassuring to know there are others plying their lonely trade from their home office or more likely kitchen table.
But what does this mean to wider economic environment? Will we eventually see a nation in the digital age where people live, work and shop from home, only reluctantly leaving the house due to the inevitable annual flooding?
Of course it offers flexibility to achieve a better work/life balance, especially for young families for whom working from home can ease the burden of ever increasing childcare costs.
You’re nobody’s boss but in my experience everybody becomes your boss. Clients often believe that working from home means you should be contactable 24 hours a day.
You can decide not to answer calls and emails after 6pm, but your business will soon migrate to others willing to work well into the night.
You are never at work, but at the same time you are always at work. Work/life can become work-life.
It appears that geographical location is a major driver for home working. DL4B’s analysis showed that the South East and South West had the highest concentration of home business owners, representing a tenth of total workforce in both regions.
London’s home business owner community accounts for nine per cent of the total four million strong workforce, with more than 356,000 across the city, and over 32,800 in Wandsworth alone.
Could this be that the cost of a mortgage/rent and a small office space is impossible, so working from home is the only place you can afford to do business?
I know in my case finding affordable rent in central London is tough enough, which makes considering an additional office space is a distant fantasy.
There are costs savings in terms of travel, but there are also costs, such as phone line, post etc, which would usually be covered your employer.
The lack of space leads to problems if you are looking to expand your business. Are you willing to take on staff who spend all day cramped in your home? It could be very restrictive to business growth, instead of cutting costs it could stifle your business.
However, in these tough economic times, when employers are less likely to recruit, it allows people to create their own dream job from home.
DL4B identified an increase in home businesses operating in other key trades such as catering, photography, hairdressing and arts & crafts. Jobs like these that might have been difficult enough to secure even in the boom times.
Youth unemployment is continuing to grow, so encouraging business start-ups from home could be an innovative way to reduce the amount of young people out of work. But with another impending property bubble, the youth of today would have to ask their parents if they can set up an office space in the garage.
But there are also added responsibilities that home workers need to be aware of. Jazz Gakhal, Head of Direct Line for Business commented: “Once an individual has taken the decision to set up a home business, it is crucial that he/she fully appreciates their responsibilities as a business owner and ensures that adequate protection is in place should anything happen to threaten what he / she has worked so hard to achieve.”
If an Englishman’s home is his castle (and his workplace) he needs to ensure he is able to safely lift the drawbridge to the potential intrusion from tax, legal and sole trader liability pitfalls.