You have a classy office suite in a listed
historic building not far from the centre of Cambridge.
Why would you want to move from there and go to the expense of
building an office in your garden at home?
Two reasons, says
independent film producer Andy Taplin: flexibility and
"I just didn't need the office space any more," says Andy.
"A big office had become completely unnecessary. In
these days of the Internet, online collaboration, wireless
broadband and wireless phones, I could be working anywhere.
And it's also more convenient. I often work on projects
with tight deadlines, so working late at night or early in the
morning it is much better to be here than to be stuck in an
office a mile away."
Andy in his new fully-fitted office.
Peninsula Films, specialises in communications for science
and technology companies. It provides services such as
promotional video and presentations, video training, and filming
at conferences and exhibitions. Staff are brought in
according to the nature of the job - like many modern businesses
it depends on a reliable network of skilled freelancers.
The nature of the work also means that Andy is
not permanently in the office, but spends a lot of time with
clients and on location. Renting an office only to spend a
lot of time away from it is not the most effective use of money.
Setting up the Home Office
There are many approaches to setting up a
separate space for a business at home. There are a variety
of vendors of garden offices, or you can go for a do-it-yourself
approach. Offices bought "off-the-shelf" can come with
varying levels of wiring and fittings, and may have various
levels of customisation according to the clients needs.
After some lengthy research, Andy opted for a
top-of-the range model from
Homelodge. These are some of the key issues that needed to
Planning permission. The model
supplied, at 12m sq and 3.5m high, is just below a size at
which planning permission would be required. But as Andy's
home is in a conservation area, he took no chances and applied
successfully for permission.
Getting the ground preparation right.
The project ran into some difficulties when the company
preparing the ground for the office misinterpreted some
specifications - something to watch out for as it can lead to
costly delays and the need for work to be done twice.
Getting the essentials in place.
The office came decorated, insulated, double-glazed and with
air-conditioning. An electrician was engaged separately to
do all the wiring to the office and internal cabling, although
garden office companies can provide this themselves.
Good security. Burglar alarms are a
must, but care must also be taken to prevent walk-in thieves
taking advantage of an empty office during a tea-break.
Making sure the insurance covers the outbuilding and its
contents is also important.
How is it working so far?
Andy says it is working out fine so far:
"I like having my own space and not having to
worry about other people. It's great for work-life balance,
spending much less time away from home even if I've got a lot of
work to do.
"I have to watch out that I don't come in to
work unnecessarily, or think I'll just do a half hours work
which then turns into several hours.
"Downsides? After 2 or 3 days I feel I
need to get out and talk to people! But usually my job
does get me out and about, so I think I have a near-perfect
Janet, Andy's wife, also works from home as a
writer and illustrator. But they are disciplined about
letting each other get on with their work, while at the same
time enjoying having more time together.
Andy can't see why more people don't do it.
People say they still like regular contact with colleagues, but
questions how much of that is just habit? Certainly
travelling up to 2 hours per day just for this contact seems
"socially and environmentally just nuts!"
Having clients come to the home can sometimes be
an issue. For Andy it's early days yet.
"I don't think my existing clients will care.
it's possible some new ones might wonder 'is this guy the full
ticket?' But if they don't want to work with me for
that reason, I can live without their custom! The old
office had a certain cachet, but that's not a compelling
business reason for staying there. The main thing is that
I have a dedicated area for work outside of my house."
How much has it all cost? In total the
project has come in at around £16k - a figure that will soon be
recouped in saved rent. And having a high quality
versatile outbuilding will probably add to the value of the
house if the Taplins decide to sell and move on.