Many factors force people to establish offices at home.
Brian Mayanja
Journalist @New Vision

A home office is set up for different purposes. Some set it up in garages, while others extend the house to accommodate the home office.

Many factors force people to establish offices at home.  Henry Kironde, an exporter of vegetables, has a home office. He manages his business at his home in Kajjansi, on Entebbe Road.

To avoid paying rent, Kironde says he turned his garage into an office. He furnished it and he employed three people to run it.

“I could not manage the unstable rental fees in Kampala city and I decided to relocate my office to my home,” he explains.

 When trucks offload tomatoes, apples and mangoes at his residential home every weekend, the three employees do the auditing and payments at his home office. Opposite his home office, there is another room, where the agricultural products are thoroughly cleaned.

 “After that, we pack the fruits in boxes, ready for exportation,” Kironde explains.

Meanwhile, Giulian Gariggio, an Italian, set up a home office, where he monitors his business, Wood Machinery Ltd, located in Kireka.

He imports agricultural machines from Italy. Gariggio’s home office is incorporated into his porch. Alongside, Gariggio put up a small gate as the main entry into his residential home. Near the small gate, there is a kennel, where two black barking dogs are kept.

The warehouse, where the machines are kept, was built in the space meant for the compound.

Gariggio’s fully furnished home office is managed by two Ugandan employees. Gariggio and his son, Marco Gariggio, who are both managing directors of the business move around a lot, to meet clients. So those who come to the office in their absence are served by the two Ugandan ladies.

At 7:15 am, every day, they open up the main gate for their employees. Gariggio explains that living near his business is for security reasons.

“We are able to see everybody who comes by and those who are trespassing. Our dogs also alert us if there are any intruders and then we call Police,” he adds.

Another reason Gariggio set up a home office was to avoid traffic jam, which many Ugandans face in the morning and evening.

 “Every morning my clients find me at home. I also save money that I would have spent on fuel and eating out,” he says.

Cautions

Muhammad Nsereko, an architect, says certain things must be avoided when running a home office. For instance, the interaction between workers and family members should be defined.

“Entry and exit points of the premises should be different. Also, you must have different toilet facilities because some people don’t know how to use them,” Nsereko explains.

Gariggio says they have different toilet facilities, for the family, clients and the staff members. Their staff have also got their own kitchen, dining room and showers.

What you should do before setting up a home office

Having a home office comes with challenges. Certain things must be in place, to make your home office comfortable and these include;

Before buying the furniture, it is important to know the size of the rooms you want to turn into offices. This will help you to create space for free movement.

There shouldn’t be too many chairs and those you have should be for clients but not visitors. A desk is necessary when doing assignments, which involve documenting. The most ideal place for a desk is the corner of the room.

“Ideally, use laptops, which you can carry anywhere,” Kironde advises.

Regarding decoration of the home office, the colours of the walls and curtains should be light.

“You could also move the desk near the window so that you can benefit from the natural light during the day,” Kironde adds.

Why some fail to run home offices

Some people fail to run home offices. Nsereko attributes this to poor handling of clients.  He advises that common spaces like car parking lots should be separated, for convenience.

But some compounds, where cars for clients park, it may also deprive children of a play area.

Nsereko says another mistake those running home offices make is having a clothes line for drying their clothes and undergarments in the compounds, where they are easily spotted by clients.

Type of food

Be careful the type of food you prepare, when the home office is very close to the residential house.

For example, foods like pork might offend Muslim clients. You might lose them because the things you expose them to make them uncomfortable.

Paying bills

Managing water and electricity bills can be a bother when running a home office. And in most cases, the consumption for the office and residential is compiled as one bill.

Gariggio says they don’t feel the pinch, of paying the electricity and water bills, though his warehouse consumes a lot.

But Kironde feels it, adding that it makes the costs of running the business high.

Noise pollution

Family members have to bear the noise generated by some clients, while noisy children might annoy some clients and put them off.

To avoid such problems, Nsereko advises that the owner must put in place rules and regulations on how the children should behave during office hours.

Experts advise using insulators, to block out the noise and stop it from affecting the family members.

Relationship with neighbours

Once you set up a home office and clients start flocking to it, your relationship with the neighbours may not remain the same.

“Of course, some complained and dragged us to the LC chairperson, complaining that my clients, were destroying their crops,” Kironde says.

This is also a problem at home offices, set up by local leaders, particularly Members of Parliament. By 6:00am, there are local residents storming these offices, looking for assistance from their leaders, which can be annoying for the neighbours.

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