The Rise Of The Backyard Office
A “backyard office” is exactly what it says on the tin: an office situated in the back garden. In this respect, the backyard office is what some might like to think as an updated shed, but instead of taking your tools to work, you go to work where your tools could potentially live.
This is the era of the shed worker.
Shed working isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. Craftsmen and many other creative types have long used sheds as a workspace, and anyone familiar with Bill Bailey’s stand-up shows would have seen the future’s tapestry laid out in front of them. Thanks to broadband and the continuing work-from-home trend however, shed working has broadened its appeal to the sorts of jobs you might find within a traditional office block. One could easily imagine a director running a mega-corporation from their shed, rather than at the top of an unnecessarily tall building.
So why work in the back garden? The one big plus is the fact that the daily commute no longer means being sardine-packed into public transportation or stuck somewhere on the M25. The time saved on commuting also means a potentially healthier work-life balance. Of course, less travel also means more money saved on transport costs. The money is saved elsewhere too, as working from home can obviate the need to rent a central office.
For those who already work from home, a workspace away from the house is also a welcome break from noise and distraction, as well as providing an environment that isn’t loaded with the grey of the cityscape. There is also the opportunity to personalise your backyard office without the potential of offending others’ sensibilities.
Having an office in the garden is not all positives, however. While in many cases a better work-life balance can be achieved, some may find themselves stuck working in their home office almost constantly. Also remember that many people who “work from their shed” are likely to be trades-/crafts-people, those whose work requires studio (e.g. artists, architects) or running a startup – work that often requires intense concentration and/or long hours. Working long hours away from others can make one feel lonely, withdrawn and isolated – common feelings for those of you reading this who work from home. There are also high initial costs for building and materials, and planning permission must be granted for certain specifications (details of which can be found from your local council).
A home office may be fine for the creative types, but face-to-face business and client meetings may not be best suited to the confines of your garden. Being in someone else’s home for business can be intimidating or uncomfortable for clients, especially if they’re more on the conservative side in their way of doing business. Where an interior designer might find some advantage by having client meetings in their own well-designed patch, a law firm may be less forgiving.
So, for what type of work is a backyard office suitable or unsuitable for? Writers, architects, artists, inventors, programmers, engineers, film makers, musicians, crafts people, startups and small-scale businesses may find working from their backyard to be generally positive, where distractions from creativity are kept to a minimum.
A backyard office is not necessarily great if your work can’t use trade shows or you need a flagship store. Anonymity can prove to be a huge hindrance if you’re selling hotcakes and lemonade directly to the public, for example. People sometimes need to see a “face” or a brand before it can take presence in their lives.
There is no telling how far the backyard office will go. Businesses may well one day become a sprawling network of sheds (and home offices for those who do not have the space/money to build an outdoor office). A decentralised, highly mobile and rather spread out workforce working from areas of low land value (residencies, geographically remote areas with few services and transport links etc.) seems to be way things are going, and have been for some time. Many have seen this future, and have decided to make it as comfortable and convenient as possible, as the above photo proves.
- License: Creative Commons image source
This guest post is written by Heather McKay on behalf of Flexioffices, a serviced office space provider, based in London UK.