Choosing where to work

Choosing where to work

Working from home. Renting a shared workspace. Moving into — or relocating to — your own premises.

There are pros and cons to each of these options.

Choosing where to work may come down to your situation and budget. But it’s important to think about what suits your working style too.

Working from home

Where you work often comes down to your situation and budget, and many small business owners operate their business from home, especially when they’re starting out.

There are distinct advantages to having a home-based business, like being able to choose to work whenever you want and having instant access to your office.

But it can also be difficult to switch off at the end of the day, and you may find it hard to maintain focus, motivation and disciplined work routines.

For some people, starting a home-based business is a low-cost way to trial a business idea.

Pros and cons

Upsides include:

  • You can arrange your working day to suit you.
  • There’s no commute.
  • You can wear what you like.
  • You can claim home office expenses on your taxes.

Downsides include:

  • It may be easy to get distracted by your home life.
  • It can be hard to log off at the end of the day.
  • Not having co-workers can be lonely.
  • Your workspace may eat into your living area.

If you want to set up a home business you may want to consider talking to your local council about:

  • Zoning - whether you can operate your business in your area.
  • Signage rules if you’re going to be selling/providing a service from home.
  • Food handling requirements (if you’re going to operate a food business.)
  • Getting the appropriate license to operate.
If working from home could disrupt your home life, set times for work and stick to them.

If working from home could disrupt your home life, set times for work and stick to them.

Insurance and home-based businesses

If you run your business from home, household insurance doesn’t automatically cover your workspace or assets.

Most personal home and contents policies don’t provide cover for business use – but different insurers define “business use” differently. It’s best to chat with your provider to see what they consider business use.

Personal and business policies have different limits, different ways of settling your claim, and generally cover different types of property and events. For example, your house insurance policy may cover temporary accommodation if you can’t live in your home after an event, but it won’t provide any cover if you’re unable to continue running your business – for that you’ll need business interruption insurance.

Most home and contents policies also exclude liability cover for anything involving your business, so you’ll need to think about what cover you need for those events.

Your personal contents policy may cover some items that you use for business, but this often isn’t sufficient, so you may need a business policy to ensure your tools, equipment, and stock (if you have any) are adequately protected.

Not disclosing you’re using part of your home for business purposes, eg making your property available for short-term rental on Airbnb or Bookabach, can lead to your policy being cancelled and/or claim declined.

Short-term rentals: what you need to know


Commercial insurance(external link)— Insurance Council of New Zealand

Guide to business insurance — Insurance Council of New Zealand




Contact your insurer for advice on what your existing insurance covers, and what additional insurance you may need for your home-based business.

Contact your insurer for advice on what your existing insurance covers, and what additional insurance you may need for your home-based business.

Health and safety (H&S) when you work from home

If you're running a business from home, it's your responsibility to look after your own H&S. If you run a business which has staff working from home – either your home or their own - you’re responsible for talking through and developing policies with them on how they'll manage their health and safety when working at home.

A healthy and safe workplace starts with identifying and understanding what your work-related health and safety risks are, particularly those that have the potential to cause people serious injury or illness. It then involves doing what’s reasonable, what’s practical, and what you’re able to do to eliminate or minimise those risks. This is called proportionate risk management.

Just as you have to look after your own H&S, you also have to look after your workers’ H&S no matter where they work, including at home. This could range from providing safe equipment for their work, to giving them information to help set up their workstations ergonomically, to making sure the home worker keeps in touch with their boss and team members in case of emergency.

To ensure you or your staff are safe when working alone:

  • Train staff in emergency procedures including what to do in natural disasters.
  • Train staff in emergency procedures including what to do in natural disasters.
  • Make sure staff carry appropriate supplies including suitable first aid equipment.
  • Regularly contact each other to check in at specific times.

Managing work risks(external link) — Work Safe

Health and Safety case study - Home baking

Health and Safety case study - Home baking

Annabelle and Bernard own ABC cake business. After getting council approval to do so, Annabelle bakes the cakes at her house, and Bernard handles all the orders from an office in town. They employ Charlie to do book-keeping. They have received a lot of rush orders for Christmas parties so need to change how they work.


Who and where

Must-dos under the law


H&S steps


Annabelle always works from home.

As a director, Annabelle must make sure ABC complies with its obligations.
As a worker, she’ll also have to take reasonable care for the H&S of herself and others, and follow ABC’s policies and instructions.

Annabelle has been working from home for months, so she’s aware of the risks – high-temperature equipment and sharp utensils – and makes sure she sticks to ABC’s policies about eliminating or minimising these.


Bernard is working from home during the holidays – orders are coming in, but he still wants to be near his family.

As a director and a worker, he’ll have the same responsibilities as Annabelle.

Bernard takes regular breaks so he doesn’t get fatigued, keeps the office tidy so he doesn’t have any accidents, and keeps in touch with Annabelle and Charlie to make sure they’re doing okay.


Charlie is working a day a week while on holiday at his remote bach to make sure there are no cash flow problems.

As a worker, Charlie has to take reasonable care to ensure the H&S of himself and others, and follow ABC’s policies and instructions.

Charlie sets up his computer at a suitable spot in the bach. He phones Bernard at the start and end of each workday to check in. One day he notices the extension cord looks a bit worn, so buys a new one before he uses his computer again.

ACC and home-based businesses

ACC levies are based on the type of work you do and how much money you make, as opposed to where you work, so working at home will make no difference to the amount you pay in ACC levies.

If you're self-employed or a contractor and can't work because of an injury, you’re automatically covered by ACC’s CoverPlus. That means ACC pays you compensation at up to 80% of your taxable income for the most recent financial year. ACC will also contribute to the cost of your treatment and rehabilitation.

If you’re concerned that level of cover wouldn’t be enough should you be injured and unable to work, you could choose to change to CoverPlus Extra. This gives you more control over how much of your income you want ACC to cover, and means you can lower the levies you pay.

Types of cover for self-employed(external link) — ACC

Shared workspaces

Sharing a workspace — or co-working — is when you rent a desk or area with other self-employed people. Once mainly the choice of start-up businesses, co-working is now popular with a range of people, including sole traders. It’s a good way to beat the isolation you can feel when working for yourself.

Pros and cons

Upsides include:

  • Rent covers facilities, eg internet, IT support, meeting rooms, cleaners and kitchen supplies.
  • There’s a sense of community — sharing each other’s ups and downs.
  • You can learn from others’ successes and mistakes — especially people who have been in business longer than you.
  • There will be opportunities to network, hear about new opportunities and get advice from business mentors and other visiting experts.
  • It can make your business feel more established.

Downsides include:

  • Less control over your work area, eg noise or co-worker niggles.
  • Meeting rooms can get overbooked.
  • Longer commutes than working from home.

Find co-working spaces(external link) — Sharedspace

Case study

Case study

Getting used to sharing

Dunc and his business partner have been working in a shared workspace in Wellington for the last two years.

“We looked into moving into our own premises, but were put off by the length of commercial leases — which were generally three years. We’re in growth mode and are not sure where we’ll be by then.”

“There’s a real buzz about this place — it feels like everyone’s got your back. It’s a bit like being in a flat-share or university. One of the downsides is that it can be noisy. You’ll notice most people working with headphones.

“It can be hard to find a quiet corner to make a phone call, and it’s a bit gutting if you’re still working on a deadline, or trying to close a deal, and everyone else is right beside you enjoying Friday drinks.

“That said, we’re really happy here. I think the things that annoy us, we’d miss if we moved into our own space.”

Getting your own premises

Moving to your own premises means more freedom and can make you feel like your business has taken a step forward.

You can either buy or lease your own workspace — both offer different levels of stability and flexibility. In either case, it’s big financial decision, so get good advice and do the sums. 

Pros and cons

Upsides include:

  • It can feel like a ‘proper’ business to you, your staff and your clients.
  • You can fit out your workspace how you want, eg with your branding.
  • You can control noise levels.
  • If you have staff, it’s easier to create a work culture in your own space.

Downsides include:

  • Leases for commercial spaces can be up to three years — meaning you have to really think ahead.
  • Paying commercial rent is an extra financial pressure if your business goes through hard times.
  • Unless you’re in a serviced office, you have to pay extra for things like cleaners, technology fit outs.

Serviced offices

Serviced offices share facilities, eg a reception area, cleaners, power and IT, but each workspace is private.

If you’re thinking of moving into your own premises, but aren’t sure where your business might be in a couple of years, renting an area in a serviced office can be a good way to dip your toe in the water. They offer shorter leases and many allow you to increase and decrease the size of your area — so you can downsize or grow over time.

Serviced offices can be a good first step to getting your own space.

Serviced offices can be a good first step to getting your own space.

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