Think of these scenarios. You go on vacation, only to find your house burglarized and emptied of its content when you return. Or you go to watch a movie, then return to a house gutted by fire. Or maybe, a hurricane comes and floods your house. Sounds far-fetched? Don’t be too sure.
If disaster strikes your home, chances are it will also wipe out your home-based business. It is heartbreaking to see months or years of hard work go down the drain simply because you never factored in your planning process the occurrence of disasters, accidents, and thefts.
How to Protect Your Home Office
Throw out that “It won’t happen to me”¨ thinking, because it can! Here are some ways you can protect your home office and your business:
Carefully plan the lay-out of your office.
Some home offices I visited are like accidents waiting to happen. Wires are all over the place, papers and books are piled all over the floor, or there are too many electrical equipments plugged into one electrical socket. Not only are these kinds of home offices prone to fire, but you can be liable if a customer trips on your books and has a concussion.
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Avoid potential safety hazards in your office.
Stop for a moment and look around you. Study how things can be improved. Pile books and magazines in an area with little foot traffic. If you must have wires traveling from one part of the room to the other, tape the cords on the floor.
Make your house burglar-proof.
You can never be too sure these days or your neighbors (or even your customers!). Try to keep a low profile in your neighborhood: don’t announce to just about everyone that you are running a home business with expensive equipment. As much as possible, do not invite clients or visitors to your home. In fact, I know of some home-based entrepreneur who’d rather meet their clients on a neutral ground, e.g. the client’s office or even Starbucks.
There are other ways to keep burglars away from your house.
- Keep lights open in the perimeter of your house in the evenings. Light is a natural deterrent for burglars.
- Invest in a security alarm, particularly if your house is located in a relatively isolated stretch of the road. Security systems can often bring down the cost of your homeowner’s insurance premiums.
- Make sure that all windows and doors are locked and the security alarm turned on before you sleep at night or go out of the house. Avoid keeping house keys in obvious places, such as under the lamp or on top of the doorframe.
- Make your doors “pick resistant” by using deadbolt locks. Your doors itself should be made of strong materials, such as a one-inch thick solid hardwood or heavy metal.
Get adequate insurance coverage.
Many entrepreneurs think that their insurance covers everything, only to find that it does not in the event of a disaster. Some insurance merely covers the structural damage to your home office.
>> RELATED: Types of Insurance for Your Home Business
Make sure that your insurance covers the home-office equipment and other contents within the office. Get a rider that will cover these costs. Be sure that you keep a complete inventory of your home office equipment and materials, by either keeping their purchase invoice and videotaping or photographing them.
Extra coverage is particularly helpful if you are living in a disaster-prone area like wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. Consider getting additional coverage if your home office is located in the basement, to protect your business from sewage damage. There are also riders that will pay you to relocate to a temporary office in the event that your home office is destroyed.
Remember to get liability coverage to protect you when clients and customers visit your home office.
Back-up your data nightly.
Or better yet, back-up your data as soon as you made any changes to it. Research online services that allow you to backup your files in the cloud or remotely. Copy your files to rewritable CDs or Zip disks. You can never tell when you will have a glitch and would need to restore the entire site. Or if you are running an online business and using a web host, you never know what disaster may strike them that will erase your data on their servers.
One time when the design team uploaded our site, they saw a huge blank space in what should have been the text of an article. They couldn’t understand what happened because the preview page looked just fine, but the page when uploaded became distorted. Luckily, a back-up was made before the changes were done and they were able to restore our site.
>> RELATED: Do You Have a Backup Plan for Your Home Business in Case of Emergency?
Keep a back-up copy of your data offsite. It is not enough that you back-up your data regularly, you must keep a copy of it offsite — be it in your car, bank, mother’s house, or husband’s office. Always photocopy your most important documents. You may also scan them and put everything in a CD or Zip disk. If your data is significant, consult with a technology expert on data storage alternatives. If disaster strikes your home and your office is destroyed, you will still have your important documents intact.
Consider renting a safety box in your bank. A corollary to the advice above, you may wish to rent a safety box to store your most important documents, such as business registration, tax papers, licenses and others. Safety box rentals range from $30 to $75 a year, but it can give you a feeling of security. Don’t forget, though, to photocopy documents that you place in your box so you have a record of what’s in there. And of course, do not lose the key!
Maintain an “evacuation box.”
In the same way that I always have a duffel bag full of clothes that I can grab in case of emergency, I suggest you put all your important documents in an easy-to-carry box. Put your bills, tax records, personal documents, insurance policies and others in a box that you can grab in a hurry in case of emergency. Don’t put all the important papers in the filing cabinet, unless it can easily be pushed in case of emergency. I personally prefer small rolling file cabinets that can easily be pushed should I need to run out of the house.
Recommended Books on Setting Up the Home Office:
- The Smarter Home Office: 8 simple steps to increase your income, inspiration and comfort
- Working from a Home Office Successfully: Best Practice Tips
- Building the Custom Home Office: Projects for the Complete Home Work Space
- Stomp the Elephant in the Office: Put an End to the Toxic Workplace, Get More Done — and Be Excited About Work Again
- Types of Insurance for Your Home Business
- 10 Common Home Office Mistakes
- What Qualifies for a Home Office Tax Deduction?
- How to Create a Home Office that Works
- Checklist for Disaster Preparedness and Recovery