Home Is Where the Paycheck Is
Working from home seems like a dream job: no commute, no boss following you around and no need to dress up in uncomfortable clothing. But can you be productive sitting in your pajamas and watching television while you "work"? And if you own your own business, does it pay to stay at home and work or rent office space to be more productive? And are all of the costs associated with running a home office worth it?
MainStreet asked small-business owners to weigh in on why working from home isn't always the best tactic for a successful career.
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At home, there are distractions: television, the phone ringing, that pile of laundry to tidy up while responding to emails on your BlackBerry. While distractions exist in an office too, mixing your home life with your office life is risky if you plan on being productive.
Genesis Kobos of Kobos PR has been working from home for five years and reveals how troubling that lifestyle can be: "When I first started, I would oftentimes sleep in and start working in my PJs, which never made me feel good and did not lend itself to productivity."
There comes a point where you need to separate your work life from your personal life at home, as Andrew Neitlich of the Center for Executive Coaching knows well. He runs his million-dollar business from home and is very familiar with distractions – he outlines some of them below:
- I start work from 6 to 7:30 a.m., the main quiet time in the house before getting the kids ready for school and driving them. Once the kids are gone, work can resume.
- The cleaners come every week to clean the house. That gets loud.
- Lawn and pool guy comes every week, and that gets loud for phone calls.
- My 2-year old daughter loves to scratch the keys off my computer type pad.
- When the wife wants me, the wife wants me.
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Most business requires face-to-face meetings with clients to iron things out. It can be difficult to have people visit your home for business meetings, and it doesn't look professional.
Barry I. Mortge, who runs his law firm out of his home, attests to the dilemma of having clients and customers visit his home for meetings: "I do not have a good space to meet my clients, and I don't want people at my home."
In the office, chances are you'll have ample space to meet with clients, conduct meetings, give presentations, use the conference room and make a professional impression.
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There are plenty of business owners who get by just fine working in their home offices. But when it comes to the specific, nitty-gritty aspects of managing your business, is commercial office space simply a better fit? David Feldman of YLighting.com had the following issues when running his business from home:
- Trying to get corporate liability insurance with a residential address.
- Third-party business directories publishing (online) my home number as the business number (I think they take the address from the reseller's permit data and cross reference this to home phone numbers).
- Figuring out how to receive and process returns from customers.
Some businesses simply cannot operate out of a home office, while others simply need a phone, computer and Internet – all of which can be found at home.
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While most offices have some degree of frustrating politics, there's something to be said about socializing with co-workers. In addition to the great friendships that can result from working in an office, colleagues can be helpful and teach you about the business world, especially if you're at the beginning of your career. Mayra Sotelo, co-owner of The Juppy Baby Walker company, mentions how home offices lack human interaction: "I do miss being able to connect and joke with other people. It’s good to stop what you’re doing and just talk."
Not to mention the office gatherings, holiday parties and company picnics that come along with working in an office. You don't get your slice of free cake at home, after all.
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Too Much Work?
To be successful, as the adage goes, you have to work hard. But is there such a thing as too much work? While working in a commercial office, once you go home, you're away from your office computer (unless you use a laptop or are a BlackBerry addict), which allows you to distance yourself from your work and focus on spending time with family.
“The potential to work around-the-clock, causing you to miss out on other aspects of life such as friends, family, hobbies, is possible when you have a home office. Work can easily become all-consuming when you face it every time you walk by your office door, which happens to be in your house!” remarks business owner Marcia Layton Turner.
The ability to keep all of your work in the office and return home without thinking about your job is an important benefit to office life – though easier said than done.
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It takes a significant amount of energy to run an office. When you factor in the electricity needed to run your computer, printer, phones and the heating or air conditioning, your energy bills will be higher. And if you use your cellphone, think about all the minutes that are used throughout the business day. In an office, you would have an office phone to use instead of draining your cellphone minutes.
By working from home, you’re most likely saving time and money by not having to commute, but adding to your household bills will put a strain on your bottom line.
-Scott Gamm is the founder of the personal finance website HelpSaveMyDollars.com. He has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, Fox News, ABC News and CBS. Follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter.
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