Are you now working partly online or away from the office? If you can do your job remotely, why not do it in style? Annaliza Davis outlines everything you need to know about working from your own French home.
Since March 2020, nearly all businesses and staff have adapted to remote working and virtual meetings. Given that geographical proximity to an employer may no longer be essential, what difference does it make where you are based? Perhaps it’s time to choose the base you’ve always dreamed of, such as a French farmhouse framed by wisteria, or a poolside villa with sea views…
Remote working is here to stay
Data from research conducted for the University of Nottingham and Stanford University in January and February 2021, plus research firm Gartner, reveal that back in 2019, employees spent around five per cent of their working time at home; but by spring 2020, this had shot up to 61 per cent. This dramatic increase was caused by the global pandemic, but it simply accelerated a growing trend, forcing companies and workers to adapt very suddenly to remote working. The consequences of this shift are significant: 79 per cent of employees surveyed said they would like to continue working from home for at least part of the working week, with 48 per cent preferring to work three days or more from home.
In parallel, up to 75 per cent of employers – including major firms such as BT, Virgin Media, Barclays and PwC – have stated that they plan to continue this hybrid office/home work model, as it offers reduced overheads and higher staff satisfaction.
Being based from home no longer has the stigma that it used to. We now accept that it is possible to do your work to a professional standard without necessarily being physically present at the office.
The work from home situation in France
As companies and employees alike woke up to this realisation, so French property trends shifted. In 2020, thousands of city-dwellers sold their small, costly apartments and headed to quieter areas.
Alexandre Griveau, an estate agent on France’s west coast, explained: “There has been a clear rise in demand from Parisians and other city residents, all wanting the same thing: not necessarily a sea view, but open views and a sense of space.”
Now that it’s practical to work from home, professionals across Europe are opting out of urban areas and choosing more space, a home office and a better work-life balance.
The good news is…
Thankfully, there are plenty of areas in France where you can find a fabulous property at a great price, offering everything you need for a home-based career. Chances are that you’ll get a lot more property for your money on this side of the Channel, so what are the criteria?
Practicalities: What should you look for?
What should you look for in your work from home property?
Always the most important consideration, location is even more crucial if you’re looking to keep a UK job, but be based in France. Is your work the type that requires physical presence at short notice? Will you need to nip back to the UK for the occasional meeting or event?
Opportunities to network and socialise become more meaningful when you don’t have workmates. If you’re planning to work full-time from your new home, do you need some English-speaking contacts? You could consider local business networks or co-working spaces if your French is good.
Networking cafés in France
Throughout France, co-working and networking spaces are becoming more popular. Hire a desk for regular hours or occasional use, use them for client meetings or just to socialise with other professionals. To find a site close to you, try www.bureauxapartager.com or www.neo-nomade.com or search ‘coworking’ in your area.
Work from home property wish list
Now it’s time to dream! Create a wish list of all the elements and features you’d love to have in a property if you were to base your office from home. Later, you can rationalise and prioritise to firm up on your final search criteria. Here are some things you might want to consider…
Dedicated work space
Most home-based professionals agree that this is the key. Avoid kitchen tables, laptops on the sofa and makeshift desks in the bedroom: if you want to be professional, get yourself a professional, dedicated space in which to work – ideally one that’s separate from the house but if not, make it one you can close the door on at the end of the day.
If your business is physical, such as crafting, mechanics or woodwork, you’ll need to be particularly practical about how much space and the type of structure you need. Look for outbuildings or garages (annexes or dépendances in French) and ensure you have plenty of natural light.
Jessica Morgan runs her PR company from home, and understands the need for distance: “Having a space that was as separate from the house as possible was important, both for me and the people who come here. We have our own bathroom and there’s an area of the utility room that adjoins, with a fridge, a kettle and a coffee machine, so we don’t have to go into the kitchen at all.”
Depending on your business, you might need to welcome clients to your workspace, or even have a separate function room in which to greet clients and hold meetings – perhaps even showcase and demonstrate products. If this is the case, you’ll also need to check that your house insurance policy will cover customers on site.
Reliable communication systems
Wherever you’re based, reliable w are a must. Fibre optic broadband offers a more reliable connection but there’s not yet complete coverage in France, so if this is a key factor for you, check the coverage where you’re looking to invest. You might also choose to install a second phone line and WiFi service specifically for your business, particularly if teenagers in the house are likely to spend their days online.
This time next year, you could be home- working from the house of your dreams in France. Start planning now!
Weighing up the pros and cons of working from home
- More time: no commuting
- Lifestyle: not starting your day in traffic
- Cost-efficient: no parking fees, lower lunch costs
- Home life: you can enjoy more mealtimes with your family
- Blurred lines: risk of always being ‘on call’, it’s hard to stop
- Boundaries: friends and family can assume that if you’re at home, you’re available
Experts advice: Valérie Aston
Valérie Aston runs Start Business in France, advising small businesses and freelancers. We asked her some vital questions on the subject.
Tips for freelancing from home
Think three years ahead. It can be tempting to start various activities to generate income, but do you see yourself still enjoying them in three years’ time? In France, the administration of registering with various authorities can be complicated if you change tack later.
What do you need to declare if you work from home?
If you own your property and provide services not products, you need to register with French social security (URSSAF) giving that address, then declare your home office space. For other types of activity, your spouse or partner also needs to give permission.
If you are starting a shop, café or workshop in your property, you must tell the Mairie. There may be a small fee to pay.
Check the ins and outs of working in France
Non-European citizens need a business visa from their home country before registering a business. British citizens arriving from 2021 must apply for a long-stay work visa with the French Embassy, including business and financial plans, so preparation is essential!
Check if your activity is regulated. Many regulations are different in France, particularly for building and the beauty sector. Have proof of qualifications and experience, and research relevant regulations.
If you are new to France or to freelancing, keep it simple to start with so you can concentrate on understanding the French system. If you have low overheads, ‘micro entrepreneur’ is probably your best starting point: you declare monthly income then pay contributions accordingly.
The following articles are a good place to start:
Follow through your health cover setup
Registering a business in France automatically generates health cover and a French social security number. The process takes up to six months, but you must stay on top of it!
Don’t guess the legal structure of your business
This is a serious step, probably with serious time and money invested, so don’t guess anything! Before picking the legal structure for your business, check the social charges and how flexible it is if your business evolves, and if necessary get expert advice.
Based in France, employed by a UK company? In principle, if you’re working remotely, you need only file and pay income tax wherever you are resident (where you live more than half the year). If you’re moving outside the UK to live and work but will continue to be paid by a UK company, you need to inform Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, which will then send a special tax coding for your employer. Many businesses also have French or EU branches; if yours does, that can simplify the process. To find out more, go to www.gov.uk and search ‘employees working abroad’.
If you’ve found a great property and need professional advice, here are some places to start:
- House surveys are not a legal necessity in France but are strongly advised. For an English-speaking surveyor, try www.francehousesurveys.com.
- Planning is a potential minefield in a second language, so contact www.frenchplans.com for professional support on planning applications and project management.
- An architect might also be necessary, depending on your project, and Allen Architects covers all of northwest France. Visit www.architectbrittany.com for more details.
Ready to work from home in France?
From applying for your visa and opening a French bank account, to integrating in your new community – FrenchEntrée is here to help! Let our Essential Reading and Visa & Residency articles guide you through the whole process, then visit our Owning Property, French Tax, Healthcare, and Life in France zones for everything else you need to know.
Lead photo credit : © Elle Hughes on Pexels
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