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Impact of COVID - Public Frontage

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Hello 

As you know well, COVID has had a significant impact on the way we work. Face to face meetings has been replaced by calls, Zoom and emails. 

I am seriously questioning the need for a shop front as a frontage for the practice. COVID has affected high streets. 

More recently I have moved into a house with good size garden and an average size garage. 

My thoughts are to either to turn the garage into an office or have a new garden office.  Big enough for three people.  

If you have experience in this area, can you please share:

1) Good to work from a garage turned office or a garden office? 

2) Cost of conversion (number of people working in the office)? 

3) Legality of employees working from garden office/Garage 

4) Client perception? 

Thanks

 

Replies (13)

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By Michael Beaver
30th Apr 2021 18:10

I started to go down this path and then reversed course very quickly.

I found that once staff started coming to my house each day it became impossible to separate my home life from my work life, even with the work happening in a different area to the rest of my home. I felt it became impossible to have the occasional day off at home to just chill, if my staff were working just meters away.

Also, once clients start dropping things off to your house, they'll start to do so at all hours assuming that you live there anyway!

So I got an office in town to give myself the separation.

I can't answer your questions on costs of conversion, but assisting other clients the things to be careful of are your home insurance and business insurance - especially employers liability insurance.

It's legal to have employees at home, provided you have the employers liability cover in place, but you may need to register for business rates or clear it through your local council first.

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Slim
By Slim
30th Apr 2021 19:24

1) Good to work from a garage turned office or a garden office? Depends on how much you spend IMO

2) Cost of conversion (number of people working in the office)? It won't be chea[ but will add value to the house so not dead money

3) Legality of employees working from garden office/Garage. Don't know

4) Client perception? Not great and employees may not like it.

Again all in my opinion.

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By Ken Howard
30th Apr 2021 19:38

I think the death of the "High Street" and WFH working is being over-exaggerated. I suspect there'll be a pretty fast return to the old F2F ways. Probably not to the same extent as pre-covid times, but certainly enough to warrant a "shop front" post covid if you "needed" a shop front pre covid.

WFH has been a very necessary sticking plaster to keep things moving over the lockdowns/restrictions, etc., and I fully appreciate that a lot of people prefer it, but likewise there are also a lot of people who prefer F2F.

Remote working was possible for years before covid. I was using the first "cloud" book-keeping systems and had clients all over the country back as far as 2000 when I set up my practice. I have lots of clients who could easily manage fully online, but they prefer F2F meetings and being able to drop off their paperwork in person. I originally started working from home but saw a massive influx of new business when I got my first "shop front", and then when I moved away from the High Street and into a "back street" office, the drop off in new clients was very noticeable.

I've lost a lot of clients over the past year due to covid, so am planning to give up my back street office and move into another "shop front" this Summer to try to get plenty of new business to build the practice up again.

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Replying to Ken Howard:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
30th Apr 2021 22:43

We have been pleasantly surprised, we had two offices in same stair that became vacant, upper one let very quickly and the other one has an interested party even before incumbent is leaving in June.

Have not yet had any of our cafes back (we have three) but it actually looks like we could be back to 100% let in short order . (Though I am expecting some further damage once some of the support mechanisms unwind)

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
30th Apr 2021 22:47

If your PPR do consider future CGT issues and of course planning issues, fire regulations, health and safety etc, re insurance etc talk to your broker.

Not sure if I would really want clients being too familiar with where I lived, especially if/when they became ex clients, when I did run my PT practice I saw them at hotels or used my employer's meeting room (not sure re BIK re this )

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By SXGuy
01st May 2021 07:31

Apparently we are allowed to hug again on June 21st so if that's true I'm sure people will start face to face shop visits also.

I did working from home for years, I now have an office off-street with no frontage. Much prefer that.

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By pauld
01st May 2021 12:57

Employees and clients coming to house - sounds a nightmare. No separation of home and work life.

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By Duggimon
04th May 2021 09:17

Sounds absolutely awful to me, I regret even letting my work have my mobile number.

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By Padam Walburn
04th May 2021 10:07

At the back end of 2019 we converted our garage into an office, we did the work ourselves, including pointing and completely re-roofing and it cost a little of £5k. I can fit me plus two members of staff in comfortably (although with covid rules, i am sticking to me plus one other on an as needs basis). It is literally the best thing i have ever done, in terms of that work/life balance as we were working out of the spare bedroom. I've only ever had good comments from clients, both in terms of the "zoom background" and the fact that they have an office to visit

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By johnjenkins
04th May 2021 10:07

Accountants working from home maybe ideal for some but it hasn't got the same street cred as a high street office.

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By mkowl
04th May 2021 10:31

interesting debate - i have thought about it. Not that the office is on a High Street - a move I have not regretted and enjoy the rural business park the office is now located. Only a 10 minute commute as well, but I think vital for the separation aspect

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Keep Calm, I'm and Accountant!
By i-accounts
04th May 2021 10:39

I worked from home for many years and it was never an issue, you can get insurance for home based business too however, I took on my office 3 years ago which is tucked away in a small trading estate, no passing footfall or traffic as there are only 3 businesses there but it was the best decision I made due to being a single mum to 3 boys as it was a struggle getting peace, WiFi constantly hijacked for their gaming and also I frequently found myself working into the early hours of the morning and felt my practice was starting to dictate my life as I was never off duty!

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By Hut15
04th May 2021 10:53

I think it really depends on the nature of your practice, and it sounds like it might not be a good fit for yours. We are a tiny practice consisting of myself and my husband, and we don't want to expand if at all possible. Working from home suits us and many of our clients either work from home themselves, or have done in the past so they get it. We are also good at maintaining boundaries - not answering the phone after work hours, visits by appointment only etc. Also, we are not looking for the more corporate clients (who might be put off by the lack of office). I wouldn't want employees coming to work at our home, though, and I suspect this might lead to business rates etc and possibly a need to apply for planning permission for change of use.

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