Work From Home Or Take Up An Office Space? Answer These Questions First

A lot of early stage startups ponder whether they should work from home or take up an office space (and add to expense).  We get these questions very frequently and hence, here is a perspective that I hope will help you make the decision.

Decision Point #1: What’s Your Marital Status?

Your marital status is a very significant criteria in your decision to be the ‘EIR’ (Entrepreneur-in-Residence*).

1.  If you are married, you’d know that even bringing potato/tomato for lunch becomes an emergency situation and you will have no option but to comply to the ‘lord’.

– 1.1: If you are married and have kid (s ), you are actually doomed (entrepreneurially speaking)– highly recommended that you go out of home. That is, assuming that your intent is to build a successful business (and not a mediocre lifestyle business).

2.  If you are bachelor and stay with your family (parents/ live-in with girlfriend/boyfriend etc), you need a certain discipline to work from home. Unlike your married friends, you still have an option to say NO to the ‘boss’, but then it’s tough.

3. If you are bachelor staying alone/with friends, you can afford to work from home. Having said that, point number (2) still applies, i.e. discipline matters.


Decision Point #2: Are you funded?

By funded, I also mean do you have enough cash in hand? If you want to save each and every penny, you might prefer to work from home and cut down on your expenses. Having said that, always remember that nobody has ever built a BIG business by saving money – you make money by spending money (in right ventures). And office space is never a bad spend (its infrastructure and we all know that any organization/country/company needs a solid infra to grow).

So if you think you can do much better (in terms of productivity) working from an an office space vis-à-vis home, go for it.

Questions to ask before you work from home?

  • Do you plan to hire people/build a team?
    If yes, you should not expect people to work from ‘your’ home. Hire a small office and it will work better for you/your employees.  Or better, get a room which can be completely detached from your house and convert that to an office space (i.e. have separate entry/exit).
    In the short run, it’s alright to convert one of your rooms to office (works perfectly when you have 1-2 employees), but in the long run, you will repent that decision.
    Having said that, if you stay in CBD (central business district, for example a place like Koramangala/Indiranagar in Bangalore), it’ll be better for you to convert one of your rooms to an office space, as it’ll be easy on your employees’ travel expense (+time) and you will also save on rentals.
  • Do you have a good track record of ‘discipline’?
    You don’t have to answer this, but in all probability you know how disciplined are you? Don’t you?
    Even without any external pressure (of job etc), do you wake up at a designated time and start work at a defined time?
    At the last UnPluggd event, Naveen Tewari of InMobi shared an interesting story – he/his cofounders used to roll up the bed and convert their room to an office by 9 AM – no matter what.
    Do you have a discipline like this? If not, you need an external pressure, a guilt of spending extra on office space, so that you actually use it.
  • Are you intrinsically motivated? Are you introvert?
    Some of us are, and some aren’t. If you are the one who needs a doze of motivation very frequently, you shouldn’t be working from home.  In general, introverts who work from home end up with loneliness and this will hurt your motivation level. So go out regularly and meet people (breathe some fresh air!).

When I interviewed Aaron Patzer of Mint, he shared how he worked from his small room for a year and stayed focused in building the product. You need that sort of commitment and laser focus to achieve your dream. Some of us are disciplined and some aren’t. Assuming that you know where you fall, decide accordingly.

Do share your experience/suggestions.

[Image credit: minxlj/Flickr]

* – Our EIR definition is a pun on the regular EIR definition. So take it easy.

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