If you’re like most small business owners, you probably do a lot of your work out of your home office. However, if you aren’t careful, working from a room in your home can become more of a liability than an asset. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure you get the most from the space.
If you want to keep things professional, you need to set the tone with a space that is high functioning and used only for business purposes. Doing so will also help you at tax time as you’ll be able to deduct the space as a business expense.
Should I Claim a Home Office on My Taxes?
Keep in mind that tax laws change frequently and you should always consult a tax professional to ensure you’re taking the right deductions for your personal situation. In 2018, the laws changed and those working for an employer from a home-based office can no longer take that deduction. However, if you own a small business, the deduction is still on the table.
Keep in mind all the benefits and drawbacks to claiming your home office, including depreciation when you later sell your home. Know what the pros and cons are before choosing whether or not to claim your home office. That said, the deduction to reduce your tax burden could be seen as one asset to having a dedicated space.
Other ways to make your home office an asset may not be as cut and dried. There are a lot of ways your home office can be an asset to your small business.
1. Set Up a Photography Space
If you sell items online, take photos of client products or anything along those lines, having a space in your office where you can take professional images makes a huge difference in the finished product.
You need a well-lit corner and a background that works for your needs. This could be anything from backdrops to a light box. If you use props in your photography, you can have a shelf to hold those items.
2. Design and Protect a Beautiful Room
Your office space may be where you meet with potential clients. You want it to be beautiful and stay that way. For example, if you invest in beautiful hardwood floors, you don’t want them scratched up from scooting your office chair across them.
Some solutions include investing in a chair mat, lifting your chair when moving it and dusting frequently to keep any debris from getting under the wheels. Think about the ways you’ll use your office and plan accordingly.
Hardwood floors are very durable, but they are also an investment. Do what you can to protect it and make them last for years to come.
3. Soundproof the Room
If you haven’t yet built your home or are adding on, spend some time adding additional insulation to the walls of the room to buffer noise. The quieter your office space is, the better you can concentrate on the task at hand.
You won’t have to worry about a barking dog in the next room if you have some soundproofing. You’ll be able to have that digital video call without interruption. Even if you work best with a little background noise, you’ll be in complete control of what the noise is.
4. Set Up Zones
Create zones for different tasks. If you’re like many small business owners, you may either run a couple of different businesses or wear multiple hats for your small business.
Separate roles by having stations. You might have a printing and shipping station for your products. Perhaps you have the photography corner mentioned above. You might also add a brainstorming area with a white board and dry erase markers.
Look for ways to add in productivity without having to leave your dedicated space. Just because it’s a home office doesn’t mean you can’t have a snack area and mini fridge with refreshing drinks. Ideally, you’ll only leave your work space to get away from work for a few minutes and regroup.
5. Separate Utilities
If your home office temperature is tied to the rest of your home, you might be uncomfortable and it will be harder to separate out expenses. A comfortable temperature of around 70- to 73-degrees is ideal for most people and allows them to be most productive. Of course, ranges vary depending on personal preference.
If you can’t have a separate heating and air unit, at least add a small personal air cooler or space heater to ensure the separate space stays comfortable during working hours. Make sure any electronic heating/cooling has an automatic shutoff for safety reasons.
6. Improve Work/Life Balance
When you have a dedicated space for work, it becomes easier to create a balance. Walk away from the office and put on your personal time hat. If you just commandeer a corner of your kitchen, it’s too easy to do a “bit of work” every time you pass the table.
If you don’t notch out time for work and time for friends and family, you will burn out quickly. You’ll suffer and your business will suffer. Creating a positive work/life balance is best for your health and the long-term success of your company.
Study What Others Do
Talk to other small business owners and find out how they utilize their home office space. You may find ideas you hadn’t thought of that will simplify your life and make things easier. The advantages of having a dedicated space typically outweigh the disadvantages, even if it’s a spare room or small corner of your living space.