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Working 9 to 5…….from home!

Advances in technology and a flexible attitude to work have made working from home more attainable for many people, but have you got space to integrate home with work life?

With the cost of travel and childcare escalating, coupled with longer commuting distances and heavier traffic, it’s no wonder the desire to work from home is growing. In order to spend more time with their families, some people are dividing the working week between the office and home; others are supporting fledgling businesses from a spare room or trying to generate additional income while juggling childcare. However, a truly productive home office requires more than a phone, fax and computer. So, whether you’re contemplating a complete ‘work’ move or simply want a handy place to sort some paperwork, now’s the time to get planning!

Many occupational psychologists believe there are definite advantages to personal productivity if your work space is completely separate from your home environment. Even if you walk to the garage or an outdoor room, it helps prepare you mentally for the tasks ahead and it also means you’re less likely to be troubled by family interruptions. Integrating work space into your home can be as simple as converting a spare room with a computer to building an extension or changing the use of an outbuilding to a studio. Some structural alterations to your property will require planning permission, particularly if additional traffic or noise will be generated as a result of your work. If in doubt, make discreet enquiries with your local planning department or visit their websites for more information. So what are your work space requirements?

Design & Layout

Here are some design elements to consider when deciding to work from home.

Segregation – to distinguish between work space and home space.

Privacy – to give you peace to work or engage in meetings.

Security – to protect important documents and tools.

Storage – to organise work tools, materials and any merchandise.

Technology – to help you communicate with clients and other colleagues.

Location, Location, Location

Roof space – The living space achievable from a roof space conversion depends on the style of property and how the actual roof was constructed. In most cases one good sized room can be expected which is ample for a home office or small studio. Integrating roof windows will help flood the space with natural light, while dormer windows will help achieve some height. You will be guided by planning and building control legislation on fixtures and fittings but bear in mind that computer equipment can give off quite a lot of heat when used throughout the day, so ventilation and air quality should be considered as much as insulation. If you want to make the roof space accessible from outside (eg. for deliveries), then consider a staircase that could run down the side of the property. This will require planning permission but it does help you achieve clear differentiation between home and work.

Garage – The value of a garage should not be underestimated nor its original purpose entirely abandoned. Where the garage roof is high or peaked, consider building a timber mezzanine structure to form an office space, or if the garage was originally built to accommodate two cars, why not partition part of it to create a workshop? Most garages are dry and structurally sound, so are ideal for storing tools/materials or documents (in filing cabinets), but will need to be insulated if they are to be used as habitable space.

Being ground floor level also makes them easily accessible. If you want to make the space more habitable and create an office, then you will need to comply with building control regulations, and if you have already made some alterations to your property since 1 October 1973 in NI or 1st October 1964 in ROI, then your project may not fall within Exempted Development rules (known as Permitted Development in NI).

Extension – This is space that’s designed to meet your specific requirements. It’s permanent and adds square footage to your property, which in turn adds value! If a proposed extension requires a planning application to carry out the alteration, you will have to submit detailed drawing plans to your local Divisional Planning Office. Successful extensions involve an alteration to a dwelling that is completed in a neighbourly manner, which is sympathetic with the original property, respects the character and appearance of the surrounding area and contributes towards a quality environment. Contact your local Divisional Planning Office for further advice.

Outdoor Room – Adding an outdoor room can be a convenient way of achieving additional space without the expense or hassle of extending or converting your property. They are available in various sizes and can be designed for permanent or portable positioning anywhere in your garden.

You can custom-design a structure or buy a room off-shelf which can be plumbed and wired for heat, electricity or sanitary systems.

In planning terms, you can put a structure in your garden without planning permission, as long as it complies with the limitations and restrictions set out in Exempted / Permitted Development Guidelines. However, if you intend to use the space for commercial or residential use, planning permission is likely to be required and you should contact your local Divisional Planning Office for clarification. A room designed for permanent positioning will require foundations and these are often carried out as part of the installation service if purchasing from a specialist company. Such companies can also make arrangements for the internal electrics, like sockets and phone points, but you will need to source an electrician to connect these to your house. If you’re buying an outdoor room from another source, such as a DIY store, then you will need to dig and lay your own foundations (if these are required). Outdoor rooms and their fittings can vary in quality which in turn affects the lifespan and quality of windows, doors, insulation and roof covering. Always ask about warranties for the workmanship and structure. It is also a good idea to check the room doesn’t affect your neighbours privacy, views or daylight

Outbuilding – If you’re lucky enough to live at a property with outbuildings then you might be able to renovate one to provide the perfect work space.

Technology

Remote servers, high speed wireless connections, lower international call rates, and multi-room networking have made working from home much easier and economical. If you are unsure what technology you require for your business, then make an appointment with an audio-visual or home automation company who will carry out a site visit and make recommendations to you.

Advantages of Working from Home

• Overheads are lower.

• Spend more time with your children

• Save money on childcare / after school clubs.

• Set your own hours.

• No commute to work.

• Psychological advantage of being able to ‘leave the house’ to go to work.

For more information on home improvements see the ‘Improve Your Home’ section of the SelfBuild, Extend & Renovate magazine. Available from all good newsagents or online at www.selfbuild.ie.