From hot-desking to being based in a cafe, homeworkers are looking for alternative working spaces for a better work-life balance.
Being a homeworker doesn’t always mean having to spend every day working from home.
A growing band of travel agents are using serviced offices, cafes or even pubs as a base for their working days.
While there are plenty of obvious advantages of working from home, including a commute lasting only a few seconds, not having to pay for office space and sheer convenience, many homeworkers are finding that hot-desking at a local serviced office or other workspace can be beneficial, not just for business but also their mental health.
Toni Sharp, a senior travel consultant for Holidaysplease, has been hot-desking for a year at a co-working centre near her home in Solihull and thoroughly recommends it to other homeworkers. “It’s fine working from home and you only have to walk a few steps to the study to start work,” she says. “But I’m such a social person, I want to go and see people and have conversations. I really do it for mental health reasons – I would go crazy if I was in my house 24/7.
“You have people from different backgrounds and most of them are in small businesses. Everybody’s very genuine and you can talk through things and make suggestions – it’s a very positive and supportive environment. We’ve created another community – and you can recommend each other as well."
Using serviced offices is also working well for Lloydie Gardiner, holiday experience specialist at Not Just Travel, who has paid for a permanent desk at a Regus location near his home in Hemel Hempstead for the past two years.
“Working from home was quite distracting with my three-year-old daughter running around,” explains Gardiner.
“Going to work every day has really helped me focus. My weeks vary a lot but if I have a normal week, then the aim is to go to the office for four days from Monday to Thursday, and I usually do networking on a Friday.
“It allows me to focus and get peace and quiet – I get so much more done than at home.”
Serviced offices offer different options to clients, with hot-desking generally being the cheapest,
while those prepared to spend more can rent a permanent desk or even an individual office.
Being based in a large serviced office with hundreds of other workers can also offer marketing and promotional opportunities to homeworkers to potentially pick up extra bookings.
“The facilities manager allows me to put up a pop-up shop a couple of times a year where I hand out flyers,” adds Gardiner.
“I don’t get a great deal of business out of it – some people come and book with me but it’s a slow burn. It’s about getting your name out there.”
Another advantage of a serviced office is that it gives homeworkers access to a range of spaces that can be used to meet clients.
“We have plenty of space here with a Starbucks and 150-seat restaurant – there are some lovely gardens as well,” says Gardiner.
“You can also use a meeting room at Regus free of charge for up to an hour and a half.”
Hot-desking or renting a permanent desk are far from being the only option, with numerous tales of other homeworkers basing themselves from cafes, hotel lounges or even pubs.
Travel Counsellor Hayley O’Shea has gone one step further by setting up her own desk inside her parents’ coffee shop in Paignton, Devon.
“I’ve been really lucky that my mum and dad have allowed me to put in a little desk in the corner with a TV screen, pop-up stand and some brochures,” says O’Shea.
“My corner is really eye-catching with the TV and lovely brochures, so people like to have a little browse and start chatting to me. It’s a really easy, gentle way to promote myself without being too pushy. There’s nothing better than coffee, cake and holidays.”
O’Shea tends to spend around half the working week at the coffee shop and operates an appointment-only system for meeting clients, with the rest of her time spent working from home.
“It’s very flexible, which is important as I have a daughter who turns three in December,” she adds. “It works very well with childcare. It’s also great to be able to have a little corner in the shop – I call it my ‘little hub’.
“Customers come in for lunch and just say hello. It’s also helps to bring in business for my mum and dad. People come in and are inquisitive. I’ve even had to educate my parents so they know how I work.”
Of course, there can also be downsides to hot-desking – Holidaysplease’s Toni Sharp is now looking for a new co-working office after a 220% price increase at her original location. But she still extols the virtues of not working from home every day.
“It’s a great way of working, and I think you’ll see more people do it,” she adds. “It helps you to leave the day behind when you leave the office and creates a better work-life balance.”
Balance: Setting up a base away from home can help homeworkers switch off more easily than always working from home, creating a better work-life balance.
Flexibility: Hot-desking can be affordable and flexible as it allows homeworkers to juggle working from home and time in the office every week, depending on their schedule. They can also choose when to go into the office to avoid rush hours and school runs.
Contacts: A serviced office environment can give agents another potential source of clients and contacts. Co-working spaces also offer a range of meeting rooms and venues for hosting clients.
Security: Working from a public location, such as a cafe, pub or hotel lounge can potentially be tricky from a security standpoint – with concerns about unsecured Wi-Fi connections – as well as the inconvenience of having to pack away laptops and documents every time you have to go to the toilet.