How do you go about hiring somebody to work in your home business? Do you use a recruitment firm, stick with people you know or advertise on Gumtree?

Many startups are launched by people from their kitchen table or spare room, but what happens when the business starts to grow and they can no longer manage to do all the work on their own?

It may be time to start hiring, and unless you are planning to move to commercial premises, that means your home is about to become someone else’s place of work. That may seem a little strange, both for you and your new employees, but with careful planning, it’s an arrangement that can allow the business to flourish while keeping those all important overheads to a minimum.

Karen Moule started her marketing agency Enterprise Marketing Solutions from her home in Aylesbury seven years ago. By the end of her first year she was ready to hire her first employee. Today she has up to five people, including herself, working in her office, which is based in her conservatory, adjoining her family kitchen.

She said: “The key to making this arrangement work has been to set it up properly from the start; making sure I employ the right people, and having a formal induction process in place so that everyone knows where the boundaries are and what is expected of them.

“I used a recruitment firm, as initially, the prospect of hiring on my own terrified me, and they have been extremely reliable. One candidate they suggested was a male – and the thought of just me and a man working in the conservatory seemed a bit weird until it turned out that he was in fact a family friend!”

Moule is very clear about the boundaries between home and work. Her kitchen doubles up for both, but once family breakfast is over, the room is cleaned, tidied, and ready for use by her employees. And if family members need to use it during working hours, they are considerate and quiet.

She said: “It was a bit strange at first, having people working in my home, but I’m very comfortable with it, and ultimately it has benefited the business enormously. Because I have been able to keep overheads low, we can deliver a high-quality service to clients for an attractive price.

The only downside she has discovered arises when she wants to take a day off and stay at home.

“If I go out for the day, the team are here. They have a key and they just come in get on with their work. But if I want a day at home, with everyone else still working in the office, it doesn’t feel like a day off,” she added.

Cheryl MacDonald, founder of Glasgow-based Yoga Bellies which runs pregnancy yoga classes, said the real key to having peace of mind when employing staff in your own home, with a young family also in residence, is to take on people who you know you can trust.

The former business analyst had started out teaching yoga in her spare time in a spare bedroom, but after being made redundant four years ago, she threw herself into the idea of growing it as a business.

She said: “It grew quickly so I had to hire a studio for the classes and then turned the spare room into my office. At the same time I realised I needed to take on staff. I now work alongside two members of staff in that office, so it is rather snug. They do have to go into other areas of the house, but there is a high degree of trust, which is so important if you are going to have staff working in your home.

“I have employed people who I know personally, including family members, but I’ve also hired people through the online recruitment site Gumtree, done two or three interviews with them and checked their references, to get a good sense of whether they were right for the job, and completely trustworthy.”

Just because a business is run from home doesn’t mean that the owner can ignore their responsibilities as an employer. That includes having employment contracts, or supplier contracts for temporary staff, complying with regulations around things like health and safety, and having the right insurance cover, namely, employer’s liability cover and public liability cover for any visitors to the home office.

If you are planning to recruit staff for a home-based business, it is important to let prospective applicants know that the office is your home; otherwise, it can come as a bit of a shock, said Kate Russell, managing director of Russell HR Consulting.

She said: “Where possible, you should ensure that there is a physical separation of work and family spaces; that includes the office facilities, meeting room space, tea and coffee making facilities and the loo. In an ideal world, you would have a separate entrance to your home office as well.”

The boundaries between home and workspace work both ways. Just as employees respect parts of the house that are private and out of bounds, the family also need to recognise that the office is off-limits and enforce it.

“Do consider the neighbors and parking,” added Russell. “You may be able to run a business from home solo without any additional consent, but if it expands you may have to get permission. Objections are most likely to be lodged if there is a lot of noise or additional traffic and parking problems. Planning and preparation are key, but if you do so, you and your team should be able to work from home successfully.”

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