outdoor office space

Outdoor Office Space

If trend forecasters and opinions are anything to go by, this year will change the nature of work as we know it. Remote work, previously considered a luxury, is predicted to surge with large tech companies like Facebook and Twitter implementing permanent remote work policies. But this comes with a host of challenges – balancing family and work life, not seeing co-workers, and finding a dedicated office space to separate work from home. Savvy gardeners are solving the latter issue with a new trend – outdoor office spaces.

Whether a separate building in a garden or a cordoned off section of a patio, an outdoor office comes with numerous benefits for your mental health and work productivity. Plus, you work hard to make your garden beautiful – why not enjoy it? We are here to take you step-by-step through the benefits of a garden office, what you need to consider, and ways you can set up your outdoor office to make the best of your workday and your beloved garden.

The benefits of an outdoor office space

Think clearly: Being outdoors encourages your brain to reset, allowing you to think more clearly and solve problems. Studies show nature improves memory retention, increases alertness and can improve creativity by 50%. Increase productivity: A 2014 study by the University of Exeter found that filling your office with indoor plants can increase productivity by up to 15%. Take your entire office outdoors instead, and the benefits skyrocket.

Enjoy your workday: As gardeners already know, being outdoors can drastically improve your mood. Studies show being outside for only an hour improves your mood and your attention span. Spending your workday outdoors in a space your brain appreciates allows you to combat work stress and enjoy the day. Separate workspace from living space: Working from home is great, but it can lose its lustre. Surveys show people often get more work done at home, but for an unfortunate reason – they are ‘always’ at work. Employees take fewer breaks, feel compelled to increase productivity and can’t switch off when the workday is over. Moving your workspace out of your home separates the two areas and allows you to keep your living space for ‘living’.

Improve mental health: Studies show mental health is positively impacted when surrounded by nature. Greenery is proven to lower blood pressure, release muscle tension and counter the effects of staring at a screen all day.

Avoid distractions: Working from home can be riddled with distractions, from kids to pets, and the little things take a significant chunk out of your day. Having a dedicated outdoor office space separates you from those distractions and keeps you focussed on the ‘work’ part of work-from-home, not the ‘home’ part.

Elements to consider

Like any space in your home, an outdoor office requires some careful consideration. With some planning, any of these potential sticking points of outdoor office design can be easily resolved to give you the office of your dreams.

1. Weather – The first problem that comes to mind for anyone considering an outdoor office is the weather. Not every day will be sunny and clear – plan for those times when it doesn’t go your way. Adequate weather protection overhead is necessary, as well as screens or fences to shield the area from rain or wind. In cold climates, a heater is a worthy investment, as well as an air conditioner or fan for sticky summer months. Comfort is vital while you work, and these little adjustments can make a world of difference.

2. Sunlight – Sunlight is great to brighten a day, but too much of a good thing isn’t always good. Sunlight can quickly ruin a good outdoor office and make it impossible to work in, so keep this in mind when determining your positioning. Morning or afternoon sun is ideal, but your office should be completely out of the sun for the hottest part of the day. Glare can be a problem during those times too, so position your desk away from direct light. While you may be able to handle a little heat, your electronics cannot. Laptops and cellphones quickly overheat when left in the sun for too long. You can purchase a cooling pad for your electronics, or stay safe and keep them out of the sun altogether.

3. Power source – Unless you are working on a typewriter (unlikely), you will need a power source for your electronics. A plug point on your patio and a space to place your desk is ideal, but not common. Extension cords are the next best thing, allowing you to sit as far from a wall as you like and move the plug point indoors if necessary. Place your desk near an open window or door, keeping the plug away from any harsh weather. A pricier (but incredibly useful) option is a portable power source. Use during the day and charge at night, and you can work anywhere without worry of proximity to a power point.

4. Internet – Very few work-from-home jobs can be done without online access. The reach of your Wi-Fi connection may not have crossed your mind before, but signal in the garden may be a problem. Luckily, there are a few fixes – like moving the router closer to the patio or investing in a signal booster. A solid internet connection will save you hours of frustration.

5. Furniture – When you sit at a desk for eight hours a day, comfortable furniture is a no-brainer, but outdoor furniture is not typically known for its comfort. Your outdoor office requires a balance between hardy furniture that won’t degrade outdoors and comfortable furniture that matches the quality of indoors. The bonus of having your outdoor office in a separate, enclosed structure in your garden is that there is no need to worry about furniture as it is always protected.

6. Noise – The outdoor office sounds of birds and rustling trees may sound like a dream, but that is not the reality for every garden. A garden close to a road or in a busy city will have constant noise you may not have noticed being indoors or in the office during the day. However, noise is usually an easy fix – especially for gardeners. Some cleverly placed features, like a stocky hedge or water feature, will mask any unwanted noises and make your garden more tranquil.

7. Pests – Gardeners are acutely aware of the pest problem. When you are outdoors all day, pests can be even peskier than they are on gardening weekends. Strategic placement of your desk away from bug-zones (like water) and a trusty can of bug spray always works, but your best bet is to splurge on a bug screen. They double as stacking doors to section off your office, and protect you from the not-so-nice elements of the outdoors.

The Set Up of your outdoor office space

There are two main options in starting your outdoor office set up. Ideally, you have a separate structure – like a shed – to transform into a workspace. You can invest in a shed or prefab structure, but that is a luxury that not everyone can afford. The simpler outdoor office solution is to set up on an existing patio – no worry about the weather and close to all amenities.

To separate the office space from your existing outdoor area, install sliding screens. They are cheaper than installing glass doors and offer the same room separation, while protecting you from the elements. The next step is installing furniture: a basic chair and desk are all you really need.

Consider the placement of your desk to maximise the benefits of a garden view while staying away from draughts or harsh sunlight. If you work with files or need a printer, you may need to set up some extra furniture for storage space – but be careful to keep these protected from sun or rain as they will stay as permanent fixtures (unlike the tech that can be moved in and out as needed).

Next comes every gardener’s favourite part – the finishing touches. Add a few indoor plants to shady areas and decorate the sunny spots with tall feature plants that bring the view of your garden even closer to you. A rug or textured pillow adds the comforting indoor feel (so you don’t feel like you’re roughing it) and elevate the design at the same time. Once the décor is in, all that’s left is to enjoy!

Test out your new office space – your workday will be massively improved just by sitting outside for a few hours. For gardeners, there is no greater joy than soaking in the fruits of your labour for the better part of the day and getting to take breaks strolling among the flowers. Do it for your workday, your garden and for yourself. You won’t regret it.

The Gardener