Property: An office in the sticks can be heaven or hell

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Modern technology makes

it easy, in theory, to

escape the pressures of

city living and work from

a rural idyll. But all may

not be as straightforward

as it first appears,

says Mary Wilson

IF YOU are fed up with living and working in the city, with all the accompanying stress, pollution and parking problems, it can be tempting to think about moving out to the sticks.

Here, all the country lovers will tell you, you can work from the comfort of your home - modern communications making it as easy as flicking a switch. But when looking for the house of your dreams, which will become your workplace as well, there are a number of pitfalls to watch out for which you might not think about until it is too late.

Amanda MacCaw, a public relations consultant, lived and worked in London until last year, when she got married and decided to make a weekend cottage in Warwickshire her and her husband's main home. In London, Amanda had worked from Chestertons Residential, one of her clients, so was used to the machinery of a large office to back her up.

"I now work from a converted garage about 20 yards from the house," she says. "There are several things I hadn't thought about. Post is a great problem - it rarely gets here the next day and the last post in the village is 3.30 in the afternoon. I either have to be incredibly organised or build in to my day the time to drive to the post office.

"You need to make sure you have all the kit you need - running out of fax rolls in London is no problem, in the country it means a major journey or waiting a day for them to be delivered. Machinery going wrong is also fairly worrying."

To work from home, you have to think ahead. When you make a stationery order, you need to check through everything you might need in the next few weeks - putting in an order for just one thing could mean you have to pay carriage charges.

"My first major crisis was when the toner for my printer ran out. I found a spare one, but discovered to my horror it was the wrong one. I had to waste an hour driving into town to buy another one," says Amanda.

Another difficult day followed when the electricity was cut off. "Since then we have had quite a few electricity cuts, but there is nothing I can do about it. When it first happened, I thought, well, I can't use my computer or fax machine, so I'll spend the day on the phone. But then I remembered my database was on my computer, so I could only call people I knew the number of.

"However, the benefits far outweigh the negative points. My quality of life is much better and, in a productive sense, I work much more efficiently. There is nobody to natter to and I don't waste time travelling to and from work."

Working in an environment that is physically out of the home, such as a garden shed or garage, is often far better then converting the spare bedroom. Not only are you removed from home demands - washing, cleaning or making that extra cup of coffee, you can mentally detach yourself from home more easily - especially if you have children.

Even working in London can have its problems. Deborah Battsek discovered, when she moved from central London to East Sheen, that there were no post boxes within ten minutes' walk which would take hard-backed A4 envelopes.

"And my most important investment was a weighing machine for letters. This has made all the difference to my life. Beforehand, I spent so much time queuing at the post office."

Paul Greenwood, managing director of Stacks Relocation (01666 860523), has been asked by many city people to search for a house they can work from in the country. "I would advise caution before relocating to the sticks and relying on modern technology for all your business needs," he says.

"Ninety-five per cent of your business may be conducted by phone, fax and the superhighway, but ask yourself some searching questions before committing yourself," he says. "Does the area have good mobile-telephone reception, find out about the postal service and what about photocopying? If yours breaks down, or you don't have one, you need to know where the nearest service is."

So choosing a home from which you intend to work needs to be thought about very carefully. If you pick somewhere from which it is easy to operate and where there are back-up facilities close by, your life will be heaven. Find a house miles from anywhere and your working life could be more like hell.

10 TIPS ON WORKING FROM HOME

Install a business phone line, rather than a private one. It costs pounds 9.23 a quarter extra, but there are more discounts available and if your phone or fax go on the blink, the service is remarkably faster.

Be prepared to spend more on heating and electricity if you are working from a converted shed or garage.

Make sure you are always well stocked with stationery.

Make a list of local people who can help in a crisis.

Use travelling times properly for working or sleeping, depending on which is required most.

Don't forget to add your equipment to your house contents insurance policy.

If you are in a service industry, be prepared to go to clients rather than the other way round.

Be prepared to pay more for fast replacements to save lost working hours.

Keep paper records of all your database for emergencies.

Be organised - it's the only way to work from home efficiently.

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