Working from home seems like the ideal situation, or a lonely, scary way to work, depending on your personality and viewpoint. Jonathan is very much the type of person who sees it as a perfect way to combine work with home life and finally took the plunge to run his own business four years ago.
We had two small children and I was commuting into London every day – they would still be asleep when I left and just ready for bed when I got home. I felt I was really missing out,” he says.
Taking the Plunge
Jonathan was working with a large graphic design company and he had always planned to become freelance at some stage. When he received an unexpected legacy when an elderly aunt died, he and his wife Jane decided that it was now or never. “Although I wanted to work from home, the idea of having a desk crammed into the back bedroom didn’t really appeal to me – I wanted a light and airy space that was my office, separate from the rest of the house so I could still make the distinction between work and home life,” he explains.
With the money from the legacy, Jonathan and Jane managed to get planning permission to build a separate home office building next to their house. “We had a separate garage there, which had been built in the 1960s and was dire. It needed ripping down, and we built a new double garage and made it two-storey, so that there was a large office room on the second floor,” says Jonathan.
The Home Office is Finished
Work was completed in early May, and Jonathan, who had already given notice to his firm, set up his own business in his new home office at the end of that month. “It was great – I had sky lights for plenty of light, built in desks, a drawing table and a meeting area for clients. I thought it was perfect,” he says.
It did get warm on the sunniest days of the summer – but that year was not really a very good summer, and all was bearable. Jonathan was very disciplined, getting into the office at 9am and leaving at 6pm with a half hour break for lunch. “I was working probably harder than before but I got about 3 extra hours a day at home because there was no commuting,” he says.
Winter – and Problems Start
Jonathan’s business flourished but in late October, during a cold snap, Jonathan realised that the home office was going to be something of a nightmare to heat. “Because it was detached, I had already had a quote to run the gas central heating in there from the house. It wasn’t really feasible because it would be required a boosting boiler, or its own separate boiler and system, which was going to cost about £3000. And the running costs were going to be enormous – having the house heating on and a separate system on in the office was going to nearly double our heating bills,” he says.
Because the office was open on all sides, and the garage underneath was unheated, it did get very cold and Jonathan ended up with a fan heater and two halogen heaters on nearly all of the time when he was in there. “Although the actual heaters were inexpensive, the electricity bills were beginning to mount up so I asked a friend of mine who is an architect for advice,” remembers Jonathan.
Efficient Electric Radiators are the Answer
The architect had several suggestions, including using part solar power and part wind power, by installing solar panels and a small wind turbine but this would have only supplied enough power on a sunny and windy day. “Then he came up with a suggestion that seemed very logical – he knew that Germany had companies that produced very efficient electric radiators with internal ceramics that were cost-effective to run and that just needed to be plugged in. No complicated pipe work was necessary, no boiler, and they were far more efficient than fan heaters or halogen heaters,” says Jonathan.
The actual radiators were quite expensive – the total outlay was around £800 – but the radiators could be wall mounted and came in different sizes and colours. “They looked great – and the heating they provided kept me really comfortable,” says Jonathan. And when the heating bills came, Jonathan and Jane had halved their electricity bill compared to the previous quarter, with no increase in gas costs. “Perfect – now I can really enjoy working from home,” adds Jonathan.