Thinking of going self-employed? Want to work from home? Hugh Williams, author of our guide Working from Home, is a self-employed accountant who works from home.
Here are his tips on what you need to do when setting up your home office.
Working from Home Tip #1: Mortgage
If you're a homeowner with a mortgage, check with your lender that there is nothing in your mortgage agreement that prevents you from working from home; there may be some regulations you need to meet; likewise if you’re a tenant.
It's possible that your mortgage lender may prevent you from working from home, say if you're developing a business that radically affects the approach to, the look of or use of your home.
Indeed, if your home-based business increases the risk of damage to your home, such as a greater risk of fire, this may also impinge on the mortgage agreement. So, check all the legal documents relating to the mortgage.
Working from Home Tip #2: Household insurance
Check your household insurance. Are there any clauses relating to working from home? Do you need to increase your cover for business equipment or stock? If you intend to have customers visiting your home office, there are health and safety considerations.
As you work from home, your insurers may require an additional premium on your current insurance and they may ask you to make changes to your home for safety reasons.
Working from Home Tip #3: Risk assessment
Even if you're self-employed, working from home and with no employees, you're still affected by health and safety regulations. For the most part, health and safety regulations are common sense because it has to be a good idea when working from home for you to work in a safe environment, both for your benefit and for those who live in the same building. Also, showing that your business has sound health and safety procedures may assist you in getting competitive insurance premiums.
Health and safety law requires you to protect the health, safety and welfare of others, whether they are employees or not. This may include visitors to your home, as well as other people in your household who may be affected.
To comply with health and safety regulations when working from home, carry out a risk assessment to identify hazards and assess risks. Doing a risk assessment is a straightforward practice and you can get full guidance with Lawpack's Risk Assessment Kit or from our book Health & Safety at Work - the Essentials, which tells you how to assess your home office for health and safety issues.
Working from Home Tip #4: Planning permission
Another factor that you may have to consider is one of planning permission. If working from home affects your neighbours or the residential area (e.g. your home office will create noise, a number of visitors and increased traffic, or you need extra parking spaces), then you need to discuss this with your local authority.
You may need to apply for planning permission from your local council if your home-based business changes the use of a building. The general rule is that if you are using less than half your home as office space, you don’t need to apply for planning permission, but if what you do is noisy or somehow adversely affects your neighbours (e.g. your activity creates pollution or makes parking difficult for them), then no matter how small the business is, you will almost certainly need permission to carry it out.
Working from Home Tip #5: Dedicated space
When working from home it's really important to keep your business life separate from your home life. Arrange for a dedicated area where you can work from home; a spare bedroom is ideal as a home office. Avoid working from the kitchen table or dining room. If you have to share your workspace with your family, ensure that at the end of the day your work activities are filed away, out of sight.
Working from Home Tip #6: Separate telephone line
Install a business telephone line in your home office. Firstly, it enables you to keep business calls separate from personal calls and therefore makes it easier for you to claim tax relief on business telephone costs. Secondly, it avoids any younger members of the family using the phone during the business day.
More tips on raising finance, making a business plan, keeping accounts and saving tax can be found in our book Working from Home. Plus you can access an expert Guidance Manual outlining how you can find home-based work or convince your boss to work from home with our Working from Home Starter Kit, which includes various working from home forms, including a Health and Safety Checklist.
Published on: January 11, 2011