Office furniture flies off shelves as workers set up shop at home
THE economic downturn is transforming Ireland into a nation of self-employed entrepreneurs who are increasingly working from home
This is due to a combination of redundancy, forced early retirement and cost-paring by the long-term self-employed who wish to cut out rent bills.
According to figures provided by the Revenue Commissioners, the volume of self-assessed tax submissions from individuals for last year stood at 609,400 -- up just over 12pc in five years from 542,610 in 2006, the peak year of the boom. The numbers show a significant increase in the number of self-employed, despite unemployment jumping by around 10pc during the same period.
In tandem, business furniture and outbuilding suppliers say the home office market has surged and has turned into a valuable new sales segment all on its own.
Dublin based Bizquip, an Irish-owned supplier of office equipment, says supplies to home offices have surged since the Celtic Tiger collapsed and that 15pc of the company's furniture supply business is now generated by home workers -- up from almost zero before 2005.
"Two things happened. In the two last years of the boom, we saw a take-off in the numbers working at home for positive reasons. Companies were allowing workers to be based at home thanks to technology," says Bizquip owner and CEO Jim Leyden.
"They understood that this eliminated wasted time stuck in traffic to and from work and often made for happier and more productive workers.
"Since the crash however, supplies to home-based individuals have grown for very different reasons.
''Particularly high demand has come from professionals in the 45 to 55 age group who have been either made redundant or have taken early retirement and have started working from home.
"They're either based in a box room in the house, converted a garage or else built a dedicated office in their gardens. The home working sector didn't really exist at all 10 years ago," Mr Leydon says.
Sean Brett, owner of the Galway-based shed outbuilding company Steeltech, says he has seen a similar trend.
"Our home-office business has increased tenfold since 2006.
He points out that office installations are "flying" at the moment and now comprise 15pc of the company's business overall.
"We reacted to demand from buyers and began insulating, wiring and flooring our units to offer garden office buildings.
"A return to home working after redundancy has certainly been a factor but we're finding that most of our home office buildings are going to self-employed individuals renting a small office in a commercial building but who are planning to base themselves at home to save on rent,'' Mr Brett says.
''For €7,000 -- a year's rent on a small office -- you can get a self-contained and five by three metre home office. Demand also comes from people who have retrained and are putting buildings in their gardens in which to offer counselling, therapy or sports massage."