By Jill Morgan
If you've recently found yourself working from home, chances are you've been trying to find the best spot for your new office space at home. But remember all those days cooped up in the office when you were longing to get outside? Well now many of us can.
Whether your outside space is large and leafy or more a bijou courtyard or balcony, there are simple ways we can move our desk into the open air without too much hassle. What’s more a change of scene is good for us too – exchanging a view of the same four walls for trees, shrubs and flowers instantly impacts on our positivity and wellbeing, making us happier and more productive as a result. It also allows us to appreciate our surroundings and reconnect with the present moment, the seasons and nature – all important qualities for maintaining good mental health.
Besides these health benefits, there’s also the important issue of needing more space. Who else has found every inch of living space overrun with home schooling and now holiday activities? Escape to the garden? – yes please.
Want a more permanent solution to working in your garden? Head to our garden office ideas feature for all the info you need.
1. Beat the glare
We all love working outside on sunny days but dealing with light reflecting off a laptop screen is hardly restful. Not good for our eyes or our concentration, you’ll spend more time constantly rejigging your position rather than answering important emails. To reduce the glare, invest in one of the best garden parasols.
Cantilevered parasols are definitely the answer, with a canopy suspended from an overhanging side arm, they allow you create large uninterrupted area of shade where you need it most without having to lug a heavy base around. Some even come with a tilting mechanism for greater versatility. Choose from sharp and contemporary square or rectangular designs or opt for a more delicate Japanese inspired shape such as this parasol from Dunelm.
2. Stretch your WiFi coverage
We’ve recently all learnt that a day’s productivity at home is often at the mercy of our WiFi connection, so working just a few paces further away from the router box, down the garden, can be risky. Thankfully, a network extender or booster can solve this, increasing WiFi speed and amplifying the signal to reach the furthest corners of your home. Simply plug these boxes into a power socket, pair with your router and say goodbye to any WiFi ‘dead spots’. There are a wide number of different models to choose from, each with their own capabilities. Look for a product that is compatible with your main router box, some are specifically designed to work with older tech too.
3. Get the right table height
Make alfresco working a regular but comfy experience by tailoring your set up with the best garden furniture. Ergonomics are vital to our physical wellbeing and there’s nothing more damaging than slouching for hours at a makeshift desk or balancing a laptop on our knees. Don’t just settle for perching at the existing coffee or camping table, having a steady, even worksurface at the correct height will enable you to sit and breath properly and reduce neck strain too. This petite but chic bistro set from Argos is the ideal size for a laptop and coffee, and slim enough to be pushed against the wall when no longer needed.
4. Smarten up a quiet corner
Working outside for just an hour or two each day can lift your mood and help you re-focus. If your job involves too much kit to move into the garden, then at least take phone or zoom calls in the open air. In fact, with many of us occupying makeshift corners of busy, multi-tasking rooms it makes sense to grab some peace and quiet outside. Plus you can greet on-screen colleagues with a smart courtyard backdrop rather than messy shelves and passing children.
Spruce up tired walls and fences with matt black exterior wood paint, cover tired paving with gravel and surround with interesting foliage such as Acers and vibrant ivy. Finally add chic but super cosy lounge furniture, such as this Amberley Sofa Set from Garden Trading and you will have a work spot to envy.
5. Put your walls to work
A lack of space shouldn’t put you off working outside, with some clever planning you can create an effective and multi-functional area. Putting wall space to good use is key. It can double your work area and create a more inspiring surrounding too. Look for nifty noticeboards and storage systems – such as this Aepplaroe panel from Ikea – that can be reconfigured with shelves, hooks and containers to suit your needs. Daytime phones, coffee mugs and notebooks can be kept close to hand and replaced with flickering lanterns, wireless speakers and nibbles come twilight. A wall mounted table and two folding chairs complete the versatile and compact set up.
Find more balcony garden ideas in our guide.
6. Invest in a laptop stand
Look after your neck, wrist and your laptop too with a simple, but very effective purpose made stand. Pared back and easy to slot together, this clever device tilts the keyboard to a more wrist-friendly angle and raises the screen too. There are many different products available – varying in cost and looks too – but this handcrafted design in Oak from Jack Snipe is definitely one of the smartest. Portable and easy to store, it enables air to circulate under the device and reduce overheating.
7. Create an invigorating workplace
Escape life inside and enjoy fresh air, sunshine and leafy surroundings while you work. Not just restful on the eyes, having lots of greenery and colourful blooms nearby actually lowers serotonin and makes you more productive while you work.
Why not make your open-air office even more inviting by tucking it beneath a rose laden arch or arbour? Not only will the leafy canopy cast a dappled shade, if you choose one of the best climbing roses you can enjoy the delicious scent all day.
8. Hook up a power supply
If you want to work outside for any length of time a reliable power supply is a must. If you like to follow the sun and change your work spot regularly, why not go for a wireless laptop power pack. Just like a phone bank only more powerful and with multiple ports, these are very handy for extending the battery life of your computer on the go. Do your research as not every product will have a compatible port and power transfer rate to suit your device.
Have a favourite garden work spot? Then why not install a permanent outdoor power socket nearby. Definitely a job for a qualified electrician, they can fit a watertight socket with a built-in RCD (Residual Current Device) - designed to instantly cut off power if the cable is compromised - before linking it up to your home’s mains supply. Easy and quick to do, expect to pay out around £120 and for the work to take 1-2 hrs.
9. Adapt your shed
Want to work in the garden but need some shelter? Then transforming your best shed could prove the answer. Often junk-filled and forgotten, these garden sturdy structures can become invaluable extra rooms, ideal for home working during the Summer months. Situated away from a noisy household and domestic distractions, with just a few modifications you can create a peaceful office.
Take a deep breath and have a clear out, sweep thoroughly and check the remaining structure for any gaps or repairs needed. Next spruce up the walls, inside and out, with weather protective wood paint. Here a smart combo of White Daisy, Honey Mango and Black Ash from Cuprinol’s Garden Shades brightens up the space. Add a neat desk and chair, a cosy rug and a simple painted noticeboard and you are ready to go.
There's more inspiration on transforming the humble garden shed in our she shed ideas feature.
10. Install a home office
Let’s face it home working could well become the ‘new normal’ for many of us, so why not invest in a smart, dedicated garden office such as this Linea Contemporary design by Garden Affairs. Fully insulated, fitted with double glazing, secure and hooked up to a permanent power supply, these ‘bonus rooms’ can quickly become firm family favourites providing space and respite from a hectic household. You are unlikely to need planning permission as most garden structures fall within a property’s Permitted Development allowance, but it’s well worth reading our garden office planning permission guide for more detail and checking with your local planning office before you buy.
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. There was never a moment at their house when they weren’t weeding, pruning, planting or harvesting cucumbers or dahlias from the lean-to greenhouse. Her Grandad’s shed was a place of wonder, and she can still recall the musky smell. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey and spends much of her time writing about them too. A typical long-thin town garden it features favourite flowers along with the odd veg plant and the usual assortment of toys, bikes and… oh a couple of guinea pigs too.
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