How to Set-up a Home Office in a Small Space
The number of people working from home more than doubled at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,1 a trend that seems set to continue in the longer-term. Driven by a combination of employee demand for more flexible working patterns, and the unexpected productivity benefits2 of enforced home working, more than half of employers, and 49% of employees expect the increase in home working to continue.3
However, with little time to plan for home working before the government’s “work from home” advice was issued in 2020, many were left to improvise – working from kitchen tables, sitting on unsuitable chairs and wrestling with technology. In fact, according to a recent survey, 29% of those working from home reported their home workstation was inappropriate, with predictable results – overall, there was a 42% rise in home workers experiencing stiff shoulders, as well as a range of other impacts.4
It won’t come as a surprise to learn these trends have driven many people to look at establishing more effective home working spaces, with 47% planning to invest in dedicated home offices.5
Given many people will spend hours a week in these home offices, getting them right is crucial; from productivity to well-being. So, whether you’re thinking about a small home office or a garden office, there are a range of issues to consider before taking the plunge. They include:
Where to Put Your Home Office
The obvious place to start is location. It may be you’re planning to use a spare room, a smaller space like an alcove, even an existing or new outbuilding – but remember convenience is not the only consideration here.
For instance, you need to think about whether the location will offer a sufficiently powerful and reliable internet connection, how you will heat the space, the availability of natural light, and whether there will be enough space to install professional office equipment and furniture.6
Equally, for your long-term wellbeing, you will need to think carefully about whether your chosen location offers enough separation between work and home life.6
Overall, it’s about finding the right balance – while a garden office might provide better separation between work and home, it might tick fewer boxes than a home office in terms of connectivity, heating and other important issues.
How to Design a Home Office: Equipment
If you are thinking about setting-up a home office in a small space, carefully consider the office furniture and equipment you will need, and how you can fit it into the space without leaving it cramped or compromising on your own health and safety.
As a minimum, it is likely you will need:7
- A workstation or desk: This is likely to take up the most space, but lots of space saving options are available – from L-shaped, folding and floating desks to compact workstations that combine a desk area with built in shelving.8 According to Which?, the most important thing here is to choose a workstation that is right for you – how you work, the space you need, and your occupational health – as well as one that fits the space available.
- An ergonomic office chair: As many have discovered over the last two years, an inappropriate work area can have health implications like stiff necks and backs, so choosing an office chair with the right posture support for you is vital.
- A dedicated printer: There is a huge range of home printers on the market, but choosing the right one can be tricky – you need reliability but think too about running costs as toner can he expensive. Again, Which? has produced a useful buyers guide for home printers.
- A computer: Consider whether you are happy to work solely on a laptop computer or prefer a desktop, bearing in mind that an eye-level display can promote better posture and reduce the risk of back pain while at work.9 That aside, laptops and desktops each have their pros and cons – from cost to computing power – though the rise of video-conferencing means a good quality webcam is likely to be a must.
- Other office equipment: On top of all this, you may well need a dedicated office phone, desk light and storage or filing.
Remember if you are home working while employed, it is generally your employer’s responsibility to provide appropriate equipment and carry out workplace risk assessments.10 However, if you are self-employed, you will need to include all these considerations in your budgeting as well as your space planning.7
Home Office Planning Permission
The good news is that planning permission isn’t normally required to set-up a home office – though some exceptions apply, for instance if your work could disturb neighbours at unreasonable hours.11 However, if creating your office involves structural alterations to your home, buildings regulations may apply, so it’s important to check with your local County Council before going ahead.12
Do You Need Planning Permission for a Garden Office?
The rules are slightly different for garden offices. In many cases new outbuildings are considered ‘permitted development’, meaning no planning permission is required as long as the building complies with certain limits. Equally, building regulations approval will not normally be required, provided the floor area of the building is less than 15 square metres and contains no sleeping accommodation.
If you plan to convert an existing outbuilding into an office, it’s also unlikely planning permission will be required – only around 10% of garage conversions require planning for example – but it’s still worth checking with your local council before committing.13
Home Office Insurance or Garden Office Insurance
Whether you are setting-up an office in your home or in an outbuilding it’s easy to overlook insurance, or simply see it as a box-ticking exercise. In truth, however, the right home office insurance policy can play a crucial role in helping to ensure the success of your home office, by reducing the risk of disruption to your normal work if an incident affects your workspace.
That said, if you are home working while employed, insurance for business equipment will usually be your employer’s responsibility, and shouldn’t affect your home insurance – but it’s always worth checking with your insurance provider if you are unsure.14
On the other hand, if you are self-employed or working from an outbuilding, taking out office insurance might be a sensible precaution. It could, for example, help you to recover and protect your finances if a serious incident like fire or flood affects your office and its contents, or if you’re held liable for injury or illness affecting an employee or a customer at the office.
Help is at Hand
For further information explore the office insurance available from smei, or get in touch for advice and support.
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