When Is It Time to Move the Office Out of the Home?

Azriela Jaffe

I’m Never Leaving Home
Some home-based business owners set up a home office when they start their business and their business never leaves home. They become die-hard—would never consider any other option—home office entrepreneurs. If the business prospers, the quality of their home office will improve, even to the extent of moving to a new home so that a more spacious home office can be built, but the notion of eliminating a home office is out of the question. In fact, if relocating to a new house becomes necessary, a place for a suitable home office is key criteria to the choice of a new house. They have discovered that their business needs are entirely conducive to a home office.

It’s Time To Move Out
Sometimes a home-based business remains at home for only one phase of the business’ development. There are four primary reasons why the business may move out of the home.

Zoning Problems
Many localities restrict using residences for offices or businesses in some way. According to the American Planning Association, these are the most common restrictions on home offices and home businesses:

Restrictions limiting increases in vehicular traffic (46%)
Restrictions on use or size of outside signs (42%)
Restrictions on on-street parking (33%)
Limitations on employees (33%)
Limitations on floor space used (20%)
Restrictions on retail selling times on the premises (13%)
Prohibitions on outside storage of materials (11%)
Restrictions on inside storage of materials (8%)
Zoning ordinances, created on the local level, differ widely from town to town.

Depending on your business choice, zoning ordinances can severely restrict your ability to operate your business at home, especially as your business grows in activity. Although you may be successful in fighting a zoning ordinance, you may be forced to move your business out of your home if your fight to change zoning regulations is unsuccessful.

Business Expansion
You may experience the pull between striving for a successful, prosperous business and wanting to work at home in a space too small to accommodate your growing business and a family. Some entrepreneurs intentionally limit their growth or start charging higher fees in order to enable them to stay at home. The critical decision for some is whether to expand beyond a one or two person business to a larger business requiring employees. Others use the profits from their business to improve their living space, building an addition or finishing a basement. And some entrepreneurs move to a larger house rather than relocating their business.

If your business needs change over time, requiring easier public access, private space to meet with clients, larger meeting rooms, or commercially zoned space, you may have no choice but to move your business out of the house as your business expands.

There are other options to consider if you are struggling with this dilemma. You may consider renting an outside office or professional suite on a part-time basis, for selected work activities such as meeting with clients. Rent outside storage space instead of crowding your home with boxes and filing cabinets. House your staff in an outside office, but remain in your home office for most of your workday. Build the office outside of the home but still work at home when it is preferable for you or your family. If you think creatively, you may find a way to keep your business at least partially at home.

It’s Not Working For My Family or My Business
Working at home may not be conducive to business success and/or harmony in your marriage or family. Working at home doesn’t work for everyone. If your marriage is getting strained beyond what is manageable, if your business is failing to be profitable or productive, or if your sanity is feeling threatened, sometimes the best solution for all concerned is to move the business out of the home. The increase in overhead costs can be more than compensated for by the improvement in your live-in relationships, and the increase in your revenues.

The Business Closed Down
A home-based business can be a lifetime career choice or just a brief detour. A high percentage of home-based businesses close down after a period of time. Perhaps you have been unable to turn a profit, your interests have changed, the market has shifted, or your family circumstances have changed. Sometimes it’s time to move the business out of the home when it’s time to move the business out of your life!

If you are unsure about whether it’s time to consider moving the office out of the home, take the following assessment quiz.


  • Answer yes or no to the following questions.


  • Are you finding it difficult to focus on your work productively because you are distracted by household demands and repairs?

  • Are your children complaining a great deal about the restrictions placed on them because of your home office? Are they rebelling frequently against your requests? Has it turned out to be impossible to create a productive work atmosphere because of your children’s or spouse’s presence in the home?

  • Are you and your spouse fighting more because of tension created by the home office? Do you argue over lack of space in the house, the blurring of personal and business conflict, boundaries around work and family time, or how the home office should be managed?

  • Is your home atmosphere interfering with the professional image you wish to project to your clients? Is it preventing or limiting new business development? Do you tend to get out into the community to network less often than you need to because your business is located at home?

  • Do you frequently feel torn between caring for your children or your spouse, and caring for you business? Have you been unable to do either one to your liking? Would it be easier for you to compartmentalize and separate those aspects of your life?

  • Have you been unhappy, lonely, anxious, or bored more often because of your dissatisfaction with working at home? Are bad habits, like overeating or sleeping too much jeopardizing your business and your health?

  • Is your presence at home unnecessary (for childcare, eldercare, or caring for a disabled spouse) so that you could consider other options which might work better for all concerned?

  • Does your gut sense and intuition tell you that it’s time to move out?

If you answered yes to three to five of these questions, put some serious energy into researching the out of the home office alternatives. If you answered yes to six or more of these questions, start packing!

Azriela Jaffe is author of Honey, I Want To Start My Own Business, A Planning Guide for Couples (HarperBusiness) and founder of The Critical Link, a coaching firm for entrepreneurs and their intimate partners.

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