Golden rules for working from home

The past 20 years have seen a revolution in home working. Around 15% of the UK labour force is now self-employed and the number of employed people who also work part- or full-time from home has also significantly increased.

But if you are one of the legions of home-workers, how can you ensure that you get the most out of working from home whilst remaining focused and productive?

working from homeCreate a workspace

Creating a dedicated and comfortable workspace is a vital element to successful home working. Sitting on the sofa watching TV is never going to be conductive to producing great work. So whether you can convert a spare room into an office, or simply find a quiet corner in another room, creating a proper workspace is paramount. Also ensure that your desk is big enough and at the right height, that you have a properly comfortable and supportive chair, your lighting is right and that the area is pretty or visually stimulating. Why not take advantage of the fact that you are at home to burn candles, put up your own artwork and surround yourself with family photos or other sentimental objects.

If possible also try to ensure that this area is kept purely for work, as this will help to delineate work from home, although it can be useful to use it if you have any important domestic paperwork to do, as it is more likely to get you into your ‘work’ mind set. However if you do have a dedicated room, and you are self-employed, bear in mind that you may be liable to pay capital gains tax on that if your home is sold, as it will be seen as a business asset.

Set boundaries

It may be tempting to over-embrace the flexibility of working from home, however if you find yourself getting easily distracted then it is important to set yourself boundaries. For example you could have time limits that you work to i.e. 8 hours per day, or you could set yourself goals of completing certain tasks in a day. And at the end of the day write a To Do List for the next day to help to keep on track. Many people also find that ensuring that they are up, dressed and at their desks for a certain time helps to add structure to their day.

Find a support network

If you are working from home full time you may find that you start to yearn for some human company. Scheduling in regular Skype calls or Google Hangouts with colleagues can help to break up your day, or there are also a number of home worker networks online on which you can connect with fellow professionals.

Claim your tax breaks

If you are self-employed, or in some circumstances when you are employed but working from home, there are a number of tax reliefs that you can claim for the additional costs incurred from home working. If you are self-employed or in a standard partnership, you can claim a proportion of your household costs as expenses, or you can use HMRC’s flat rate of expenses to simplify your calculations. As an employee claiming expenses is much more difficult, however in some circumstances your employers can pay you a maximum tax free amount of £4 per day (£18 per month) to cover your costs.

You may also need to set up a business insurance policy for your home if you are self-employed and either run your business from home and/or hold stock at your property, as your standard domestic buildings and contents insurance policy may not provide sufficient cover.

Take advantage of the flexibility

Remember that working from home actually has lots of benefits, so take advantage of these. Rather than spending an hour commuting into the office in the morning why not go for a run, a walk or go to an exercise class? Or if that’s not your thing, set a little time aside for you to catch up on some reading, plan your meals or get some domestic chores done. Also if you find that you work best first thing in the morning or late at night (and your job allows for that) then do so.

So if you are working from home, remember that you do need to treat it as a job but also enjoy the benefits that it offers.

Written by Jeff Barber, Partner at Selling My Business. With more than 30 years’ corporate finance experience, Jeff has worked with everyone from start-up businesses to £100m+ multinationals and has advised on more than 500 business sales.