One in four U.S. small businesses with employees works out of the business owner’s home.
This information comes from a 2004 poll by the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Note that we’re talking here about small businesses with employees, not single-person small businesses. That’s the surprising part.
Virtually all of the businesses operating out of the owner’s home are very small — fewer than 10 employees. For years I’ve heard about small business owners who have employees working out of their homes. Still, I wouldn’t have guessed the number doing it was so high.
The implications of this trend are far-reaching. Just consider:
- Zoning regulations are going to be stretched — and possibly challenged — to the limit. In many parts of the U.S., strong zoning regulations limit the ability to conduct a business out of home. While these regulations are often ignored or winked at, it’s one thing for the business owner to work out of his or her own home. It’s quite another to have employees showing up for work there each day. And in many communities, the members of zoning boards who are asked to grant variances from the rules may be the business owner’s neighbors — the very people most likely to object to employees showing up for work across the street everyday.
- Home builders, architects, interior designers and realtors may be pressed to meet new expectations by homeowners: living space that can double as places of employment. Needs such as separate entrances, working space that can be closed off from living space, and extra storage for business supplies, are probable outgrowths of this trend.
- Computer networking firms and other business services have to contend with combined living/work spaces that have more complex needs than, say, the single-room home office.
- Anyone selling to small business has to contend with that growing challenge: how do you find these small businesses, if you want to make sales calls on them? You won’t find them in the typical office complex, industrial park or stand-alone place of business.
Of course, this trend is a boon for coffeeshops and restaurants such as Panera and Bob Evans that are known for being friendly meeting places. When you work out of home and have employees there, space is likely to be at a premium. Where else can you have a meeting?