Why working from your dining room table may be robbing you of profits

It’s 9:54 am, just six minutes before you’re scheduled to take an important video conferencing call with a prospective client. If all goes well, the call will secure your biggest deal to date, taking your home business to a whole new level. There’s a lot at stake, but you’ve got everything covered … or so you think. As you sit in your makeshift office (a.k.a. at your dining room table), your internet connection suddenly drops and your video conferencing software blacks out. Your IT skills are decent at best, but you’re forced to troubleshoot the issue alone. Luckily, with just 30 seconds to spare, you’re back in the game. You wipe the sweat from your brow and answer the call with a professional, but shaky, hello. All is well until your doorbell rings loudly, sending your golden retriever into an ear-piercing frenzy. Frustrated by the interruptions, your prospective client hangs up and stays just that – prospective.

Sound familiar? If you’re a business professional working from home (either for yourself or someone else), you know that blending your home space and office space can be less than ideal. In fact, it can even sabotage your overall brand and reduce your bottom line. Here are eight pitfalls of running your business from home:

1. Constant Distractions
If your home is your office, you’d better arm yourself with some hefty willpower. At any given moment, you may be pulled in a multitude of directions other than your work. There’s your kitchen and its wide array of snacks, episode eight of that show you’ve been binge watching, and those three piles of laundry left over from the weekend (thanks to episodes one to seven). And you’re not alone. Research shows that 43% of work-from-home professionals watch TV or a movie when they should be working, and 26% say they take naps.* To truly get down to business, it might be wise to rent an offsite office space free of endless temptations.

2. Lack of Motivation
While it’s great to have flexible hours and wear whatever you want (i.e. jogging pants) while working from home, a lack of structure can sometimes hamper motivation. Dressing up and physically travelling to an offsite workspace lends a deeper sense of legitimacy to what you do, and that will show in your work. You may also find it hard to get motivated at home, where there aren’t other people to bounce your ideas off of or share a coffee with. That leads us to #3 …

3. Isolation
Sure, there are some bright sides to working at home. You won’t have a demanding boss looking over your shoulder every two seconds, or strange coworkers with weird-smelling lunches sitting beside you. But working eight or more hours a day every day by yourself can get pretty lonely. Without any human contact, you may even find yourself going a bit stir crazy. If it’s solitude you crave – but with a sprinkling of social contact – your better bet is to rent a commercial office space. Many of these locations have closed-door offices, but with a shared lunchroom should you want to connect with other professionals on your break.

4. Blurring of Home and Work Life
When you first started working from home, you probably established some strict ground rules about when and where you’d work. Maybe you told yourself you’d shut things down at 5 p.m. on the dot every day so you could devote your evenings to your family. Maybe you vowed never to bring your laptop into the bedroom. How has that worked out for you? The truth is, when working from home, it’s far too easy to blur career and family life. Sometimes you need to physically shut the door to an outside office to truly create separation.

5. Limited Space
Home offices can take up more space than you realize. At the very least, you’ll need room for a desk, chair, and printer. Then there are add-ons, like bookshelves, filing cabinets, white boards, and more. While the dining room table might do the job for a bit, sooner or later you’ll need to convert your mother-in-law’s spare bedroom into a real office (which, by the way, won’t score you any brownie points). Even if you have ample space now, what about for the future? Does your business have room to grow? If you need to hire employees, will they fit in your home? And will you even want them there? When considering your office space needs, make sure to look beyond the present.

6. Lack of IT Support
Ah, if only there was a quick two-digit extension you could call anytime you ran into technology issues. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal IT support on hand? In reality, your go-to IT contact is likely your cable/phone/internet company. And you know what that means: You may be waiting a while for a solution. Unfortunately, clients don’t kick their feet up for a few days, waiting for you to be back in business. They tend to need things done yesterday. So if you’re weighing the pros and cons of working from home, make sure IT support – or lack of it – is on your list.

7. Hidden Costs
While some work-from-home expenses can be written off at tax time, you’ll still need to foot the bill for them up front. This includes anything from office furniture to machines to supplies. Utility costs, which would typically be covered by an employer, are something to consider as well. Don’t forget, you also have the cost of unused space – having to use what could be another bedroom, playroom, or hobby room for an office. The biggest hidden cost, however, has to do with your overall brand …

8. Poor Branding – of Yourself and Your Business
To thrive in the competitive marketplace, everything about you and your business needs to exude professionalism. So ask yourself these questions: Does your residential mailing address send the right message? Is your office clean and presentable enough to entertain clients? Can they get there without having to wade through your kids’ cluttered playroom first? Are you able to conduct a business call without being interrupted by pets or other distractions? If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, it may be time to take your work from the comfort of your home to the security of a professional office space.

Curious about moving your business to safer ground? Visit www.oneplan.ca to learn about flexible commercial workspace options that can fit your needs and budget.