The working-from-home revolution has been totally transformative, with the rise of remote contracts and many reaping the rewards of flexible ways of working. Google data shows searches for ‘garden working’ are up over 560 per cent and, when the sun comes out, we’re keen to soak up as much vitamin D as possible.
Those lucky enough to have a garden will appreciate how brilliant it is to have a garden home office, simply as a place to escape the four walls of the home. But there are plenty of ways to work outdoors without building a dedicated garden room.
Expert tips on creating a workspace in your garden
‘Separating work life from home life is key for our wellbeing – our brains need boundaries’ explains Interior Design Psychology Expert, Niki Schafer. ‘Whether we love it or hate it, the commute used to enforce this separation and provided some time to let one world fade and another one to emerge.
‘A commute to the bottom of the garden isn’t quite the same, but it’s better than picking up the laptop in the kitchen or worse still, in bed.’ We’ve rounded up a range of creative garden ideas that will transform your space so you can WFG in comfort and style.
1. Block out noise
If you live in a built-up area, you might be contending with the noise of excitable children in their gardens enjoying paddling pools and so on. Additionally, if you live close to a busy road, rush hour in the morning and in the evening can cause disruptions to your daily routine.
To minimise noise and distractions, noise-cancelling headphones are a worthwhile investment. Using noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds will mean you can conduct all necessary meetings and calls without being disturbed.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden room, you can also insulate your space with soft furnishings, wallpaper and rugs which will warm the space and soften the acoustics.
2. Keep it shady
While the sunshine is half the draw for working outside, it does present problems. ‘Pay close attention to the placement of the sun within your garden throughout the day, and how this varies throughout the seasons,’ advises interior designer Anne Haimes.
There’s nothing worse than not being able to see your laptop screen because the sun’s so bright. So make sure your outdoor office has enough shade and sun to ensure a comfortable level of lighting. Pergolas, like the one above, as well as umbrellas, and canopies are key to working in the garden effectively and minimising glare.
3. Create a hydration station
Whether it’s a transportable IKEA trolley or an extra outdoor table, you want to have some space for keeping drinks and snacks to hand. This will help you to stay hydrated and focused during the inevitable mid-afternoon slumps.
Could you position your table near a power outlet and have a kettle outside so you don’t have to head to the kitchen every time you want a cup of tea? We also recommend keeping some SPF on your trolley or table to protect your skin from the sun’s deceptively strong rays.
4. Keep your laptop cool
A problem anyone working outside will inevitably face is an overheated laptop. Stationery experts at Ryman recommend investing in a laptop cooling stand to keep your laptop working in the sunshine.
Some of these clever working-from-garden accessories have a silent USB-powered fan. Genius.
Speaking of laptops, make sure you’ve adjusted your screen settings to make it easier to see when outside. Remember to take regular screen breaks (during which you could always channel your inner Monty Don and plant up some herbs…).
5. Avoid slouching on a sofa
Are you sitting comfortably? Probably not! As tempting as it is to lie on a sun lounger the experts say it’s imperative to seek out suitable seating.
In order to work outside, you could be compromising on a proper desk and chair set up, meaning slouching etc. Being outside could mean more uneven surfaces, which will throw positioning off balance.
‘Your garden workspace should be just that – a place for you to work. It’s easy to get carried away with making a garden office a second lounge for you to relax in, but the purpose of a garden office is to boost productivity and give you a designated place to focus,’ says interior designer Anne Haimes.
‘For this reason, avoid including too many home comforts such as sofas or TVs which could ultimately create distractions and defeat the purpose. A simple setup with just a desk and a work chair will suffice,’ says Anne.
The majority of us spend between four and nine hours a day seated at our desks. Choice of chair will massively affect your comfort, concentration and wellbeing every minute of that time, so make sure you invest in something supportive.
6. Pick your spot carefully
No one wants the WiFi to drop out in the middle of an important video meeting. With this in mind, it’s important to find a spot outside that is close enough to the Wi-Fi.
‘Moving your office outside could mean your home connection becomes interrupted and sporadic, which will cause headaches’ warns a spokesperson for Chiltern Garden Buildings.
‘If you can, move the router closer to your chosen spot so your signal strength is the best it can be.’ If your router is still too far away try a simple Wi-Fi extender to help strengthen your signal.
Ideally, you also want to be near to a plug so you can keep your laptop charged up, and in a spot that has a nice view of your favourite plants or your bird feeder so you can watch local birds come and go.
7. Let the light inspire
‘Natural light is fundamental to our health and we want to feel our best when we work’ explains Niki Schafer Interior Designer. ‘Being in nature is very positive for our minds and productivity. Working in the garden and having a sense of the seasons and the changes in nature will have a calming influence on our stress levels and benefit our work life enormously.’
When thinking about garden office ideas, it’s important to consider your a view out. ‘Position your desk so you can see out of the window or door. Firstly it’s disconcerting to have your back to the door – especially if someone arrives unexpectedly. Also a good view out of the window should be inspiring.’
8. Install a water feature
Marcus Eyles, Horticultural Director at Dobbies suggests a calming water feature. ‘Nothing soothes like the sound of trickling water, making a water feature a brilliant addition for an extra sense of zen whilst you’re working in the garden,’ he says.
It’s also a great wildlife garden idea. ‘Water features can help bring your garden to life, not only by providing gentle background noise, but also by attracting birds and wildlife,’ says Marcus.
9. Block out distractions
If you live in a busy family home, keep in mind you might not be the only one who wants to be in the garden during the day. Experts at Screen With Envy suggest, ‘Utilise screens to section off your workstation from the rest of the garden, to minimise disruptions from the rest of your family, and maximise concentration.’
A decorative screen can elevate a garden’s design for both function and beauty.
10. Recreate a cafe vibe with a bistro table and chairs
If you found yourself heading out to your local cafe to work in lockdown, why not create a similar feel at home with a set made up of a bistro table and chairs? Make sure you’ve got some comfy cushioning and take regular breaks.
These are great for small spaces as they can be folded away when not in use, transforming your garden into non-working mode.
11. Take control of the climate
Although you can’t control the weather, you can control the climate of your workspace. ‘Invest in outdoor ceiling fans and patio heaters to ensure comfortability during Zoom and conference calls,’ advise the experts at Chiltern Garden Buildings.
To save room, you could consider buying a table with an built-in patio heater. Check out our guide on how to build a garden room if you want to make working from the garden a longer term habit. Alternatively, you could revamp your summer house with our inspiring summer house ideas.
How do I make an office garden?
The most important thing is ensuring you have enough shade to work outside productively, says Ideal Home‘s Annie Collyer. If things get too warm and bright, it’s going to be hard to be productive.
‘Consider plug sockets, as although it’s a bit boring, not having them in the right place can be a nightmare. I’d also recommend investing in a comfortable bistro set and a laptop stand so you can work through your to-do list in the fresh air,’ Annie adds. A proper water bottle to keep your drink cool is also a must.
How do I turn my shed into an office?
Rudolph Diesel, an interior designer and property specialist says the key things to think about are: how strong your wifi is, where you have sockest and at what height, where you want your desk to be and how much storage you need. He also recommends thinking carefully about window treatments for privacy and reduced glare.
‘It’s also helpful to consider heating and insulation for the winter months, and a good quality floor as office chairs can be tough on flooring,’ he comments.