If you run a home-based business, you might be one of many who feel the isolation of working at home gets you down.
Some people prefer being on their own because they can work without distractions and get more done. But for those who are not comfortable with being alone, you know what it’s like: having no one to talk to at the water cooler, working hard to keep yourself focused on your work and managing the lack of physical boundaries between work and home and family.
The reality is that a lot of home-based business owners work from home because of a personal need to achieve better work-life balance, for physical reasons, no alternatives in the job market or simply because they have seen an opportunity and are turning their idea for a product or service into a viable business.
Working from home can be an awkward and inflexible place in which to work, according to a survey of home-based businesses. Stress sources include accommodating the competing demands of work and family life, loss of the sociable workplace and colleagues, irregular income and clashes with partners.
But home-based businesses also play a key role in the sustainability of small towns by reducing out-commuting, revitalising the daytime economy and adding to local purchasing. Home-based business strengthen local economies through job creation increased safety and security and contributes to a positive carbon balance because of reduced commuting.
When the isolation of working from home gets too much, business owners look for ways to escape. How do you escape your isolation? Can you work from home alone?
If you go down to your local coffee shop, you’ll be amazed at how many people are now working from small restaurants and fast food chain outlets. In one coffee shop near where I live, independent business people are working on their laptops and tablets, meeting with suppliers and customers or having network meetings with several people.
A few years ago if you went to work in a coffee shop or small restaurant you might feel guilty about not doing “real work”. But with more people choosing to work from home (including companies that allow this) local coffee shops substitute the buzz that you may have had in a larger working environment and helps to kill the sense of loneliness.
Most coffee shop owners are cool about this but you often feel guilty that you are not ordering enough beverages and food to justify your taking up a chair and table in their premises. Some restaurant owners don’t like this and send the waiter around all the time asking you if you want anything else. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious that they want you to leave or order order more.
Now a London cafe charges patrons for time, not coffee. It allows home-based workers, freelancers and remote workers to have a workspace where they don’t have to feel guilty for not buying anything. Or not feeling ashamed by not slurping enough coffee to justify their existence in the coffee shop or cafe.
To get a working place in the Russian cafe chain Ziferblat (‘clock face’ in Russian), it costs about $3 an hour (R33). This cafe chain has recently opened its first London locale. What happens is that visitors take an alarm clock from the cupboard on arrival and note their time, then keep it with them, before clocking out. There is no minimum time. People can help themselves to complimentary snacks such as biscuits, fruit and vegetables or even prepare their own food in the kitchen. Best of all, they can help themselves to coffee and drink as much as they like.
It’s early days but the Russian cafe is receiving positive feedback. It’s an interesting business model and reflects changing work lifestyles. Would anything like this be helpful to you? How about looking at this business model and see whether it could be introduced in South Africa even on trial or test basis.
We’ve got Steve jobs to thank for introducing the personal computer into small home-based businesses which was a major step in the growth of small businesses. Local governments have been slow to study and understand the home-based business trend but savvy business people such as the Russian cafe chain are experimenting with supporting the new workforce by offering them a service which better meets their needs.