If you are stuck wondering how to handle growth as a home-based business, you are not alone. Most entrepreneurs start their businesses from home. In fact, 69% of all U.S. businesses were started from homes. Even Google was born in a small garage in Menlo Park, California.
With growth comes a need for workspace renovations. However, there can be some growing pains when it comes to transforming your small home business into a proper office. Meeting safety regulations and figuring out how to make the most of your space can be challenging obstacles. Depending on where your office is located, there may also be legal considerations. Here are some tips on transforming your home business into a commercial office:
Before making any of changes, it is prudent to research the legality of operating a commercial office from your home. Occasionally, business owners fail to realize that they are not legally allowed to operate a business in their area before local zoning board officials begin making threats. You don’t want to get caught in this situation.
An example of this problem was in headlines last month when an award-winning flower business in Pennsylvania was shut down due to zoning laws. Despite being a valued member of the community for 15 fifteen years, Carolyn Bupp’s Flower and Farm Market was shuttered when Bupp received a letter informing her that her permit was revoked because of an illegal subdivision on the property. Zoning laws can be a major hindrance, so it is wise to check for potential issues before making any plans.
Some municipalities have restrictions on operating commercial businesses in residential zones. Depending on where you live, there could be restrictions on the number of employees you may have present, the percentage of residential space used for business purposes, and the types of work that may be performed. Checking with an attorney before investing in any renovations is a wise move. Finally, you should obviously check with your landlord prior to any changes.
When planning renovations, your first priority should be to ensure that your office will be compliant with safety regulations. While these can vary based on your location, reading OSHA’s Small Business Handbook is a good starting point to planning a safe environment. This document offers action plan worksheets, model policy statements, and tips on how to conduct self-inspections.
Failing to follow regulations can result in fines costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and worse. Last year, for example, a Canadian business made headlines when carbon monoxide poisoning resulted in one worker dying and 20 other workers becoming seriously ill. This could have been prevented with a carbon monoxide detector costing as little as $30. When it comes to planning for safety, a little forethought can prevent major problems.
Injuries at work can be a serious problem. Some common workplace safety concerns are:
Are walking paths clear and uncluttered?
Is there an evacuation plan in case of an emergency?
Is there sufficient lighting?
Are fire/carbon monoxide detectors installed?
Are overhead sprinklers operational?
Is the parking area maintained and large enough to accommodate all employees?
These are a few of the questions entrepreneurs should keep in mind when planning renovations.
Creating a Space for Collaboration
Designing a workspace is all about making efficient use of available space and making decisions that suit your business needs. For example, consider: Do your employees need to frequently collaborate? Consider dedicating some space to conference areas and incorporating an open design. Do employees do the bulk of their work individually? A more traditional setup consisting of cubicles may be appropriate to prevent distractions from affecting productivity.
Open workspaces can be good for collaboration, but many workers actually perform better when they are allowed some privacy. Gauge the needs of your hires and plan accordingly. When purchasing office furniture and decor, keep in mind the need to create a physically comfortable environment. Excessive clutter can lead to uncomfortable (and less productive) employees.
These same concerns extend to your office network system. If some workers will be working remotely, an application server could be a good investment. This would permit employees to access work-related files and programs from a remote location. It also simplifies the process of setting up new workstations. This can make the transition to a commercial office much smoother.
When organizing your move, there are some steps you can take that will streamline the process. Book your movers as early as possible to ensure that you can get help when you need it. It also helps to keep a “moving file” — a document to help you track important details regarding the transition. Some basic preparation will help you resume business as soon as possible.
With this advice in mind, entrepreneurs can make plans to accommodate further growth with confidence. It is key to keep safety considerations in mind at the onset of planning a commercial office. Creating a space to foster collaboration can lead to a highly productive office. Finally, it is essential to research possible zoning issues prior to converting your home into a commercial office. While this transition may be stressful, taking an organized approach to the process can spare you a lot of worry and wasted time.