Even Jeff Bezos had to begin somewhere.
Many small businesses get their start in someone's home office — and perhaps you too have considered starting a business from your home. You might be a team of one or part of a distributed organization that allows you to make your contribution from home.
But what will life be like living where you work? What are the sacrifices you make to accommodate having an office in your home, and are they worth enduring in the name of working from home? Here's what we've learned.
The Joys of a Home Office
Imagine never fighting traffic to get to work again. This can be your reality if you choose to install an office in your home.
Many people who work from home choose this approach because it allows for a more flexible schedule and reduces the costs associated with things like transportation and office space. If your business is relatively small, those people you do need to work with can visit you at your home office and there's no need to spend money renting a dedicated working space.
Since you're never away from work, you can enjoy a more flexible schedule. That thing you just couldn't manage to fit in earlier in the day might be simple when you've had the chance to calm down and other businesses have stopped running. Conversely, you can take time out of your day to fit some personal things in because you've got your work right there in front of you and can come back to it later.
And then there's the tax argument. Using your home as a place of business allows you to receive a special tax write-off for the time and space you spend working. Just be careful here, because the IRS is known to pay close attention to this one. You need to be running a full-time business from your home and have a dedicated work space to avoid being charged with tax fraud.
The Downsides of Having Your Work Where You Live
Not everything about having an office in your home is rainbows and unicorns, though. There are some disadvantages, too.
For one, you never get away from your work. This can cause a lot of undue stress and lead to overworking because you never formally “put down” the job. You're also more susceptible to being distracted. With family and friends right there, it can be simple to tell yourself that you'll come back to a project later.
If yours is a profession that requires interfacing with clients in person, you may need to install cameras and extra security to provide some protection from strangers coming to your home. As a place of business, it's quite possible your address will be listed where it's easy for people to find. You don't want angry customers paying you a visit in your home.
Also, an office environment exists for a reason: it's better for communication. Yes, technology is great today, and we should be grateful for our ability to work remotely, but removing yourself from the office entirely can cause you to miss out on situational things, important nuanced communication and ad-hoc meetings. There is a price to be paid for not having to commute.
Is working from home right for you? It's a very personal decision. Like many important business decisions, it's more a matter of what your values are and how you choose to express them than one being objectively correct. If anything, it's more doable now than it has ever been before, so that gives you some flexibility.