work and home logoDarja is the Principal Investigator of the WORKANDHOME project, and is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Southampton.  The focus of her research is the neglected relationship between homelife and worklife and how it is mediated by place and space.  Darja has investigated this in relation to self-employment and home-based working; housing and the built environment and migration and new mobilities.

Microbusiness and the City

Microbusinesses (those that employ less than 10 people) represent a significant proportion of the economy: 95.6% of all UK businesses, one third of employment and just below one fifth of turnover. They grew in number in the UK by 55 per cent between 2000 and 2013, compared to an 18 per cent increase in SMEs (those employing 10-249) and a five per cent decline in the number of large enterprises with 250 or more employees (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2014).

Most high-growth firms and large firms of the future are currently micro. Underlying social change, economic trends, technological shifts and evolving industrial organisation are likely to see microbusinesses continue to increase in number and significance in the future.

Our research studied microbusinesses in UK cities and Edinburgh.  Microbusinesses are serious businesses that display growth. Their turnover growth is particularly high in cities. There is likely to be merit in cities engaging with micro (and small) business owners through business associations and forums etc. in order to hear, and respond to, their specific needs and challenges.

The majority of microbusinesses are, or have been, run from the owner’s home. Most businesses start in the owner’s home. Business growth is a dominant reason for moving from the home into commercial premises. Well-functioning commercial property markets with adequate supply and affordable rents are likely to help retain employment growth in a local economy.

In cities, microbusinesses based in the business owner’s home substantially out-perform those in commercial premises on turnover growth and are more likely to grew from a non-employing business to an employing business.

In numbers: Almost double the proportion of home-based businesses (HBBs) in UK cities made the transition over the £100,000 turnover threshold between 2004 and 2008 compared to those in commercial premises. Almost half of HBBs grew out of their micro status between 2004 and 2008, while a sizeable proportion (11%) employed 50+ staff four years later.

The use of housing equity for the business is closely linked to business growth.

Policy recommendation: Flexible building design, less restrictive planning regulations regarding use, and the removal of clauses in tenancy agreements forbidding social and private renters from running businesses from residential property.

For more information on the Work and Home Project, visit their website at