Creating the Perfect Outdoor Office
The past few months have seen a huge transition to working from home. Companies have invested in the tools required for employees to be productive and stay connected remotely, employees have carved out workspaces in bedrooms and closets, and everyone has realized that successfully working from home is much more possible than previously thought.
Employees are more productive without the multiple distractions that come with offices filled with coworkers, and companies are seeing the potential for saving money by reducing office space. We are all finding that technology makes working from home easy and convenient, so it is not a surprise that some of the first companies to announce that working from home will become a permanent option are in the tech sector.
There are many advantages to working from home, including reducing your commute time to zero, saving money on lunches and business attire, spending more time with your family, and increased options to achieve work-life balance.
Since you may continue to work from home well into the future, the option to work outdoors is worth exploring. Being outside can increase concentration and productivity. It can also reduce stress and help us think more clearly. Aside from these obvious advantages, being outside is simply more enjoyable, so if we have the choice between working indoors or working outdoors, most of us are going to opt for the outdoor office every time.
Creating the Perfect Outdoor Office
You now know that working from home is possible and that it comes with many advantages. So, if you are going to work from home all or part of the week, you need a solid home office with everything you need to allow you to be productive and stay connected. Convenience and comfort are also necessities, and it does not hurt if your office is somewhere that you enjoy spending time.
To help you create an outdoor office that fits these criteria, here are nine tips that include both absolute essentials and things that will make it easier or more comfortable to move your office outside.
Internet Access –
The first thing to consider is Internet access. Most people working from home need to send emails, attend online meetings, access documents, and conduct online research. This means that Internet access is essential to your ability to be productive. When determining where to locate your outdoor office, make sure you are within range of your home’s WiFi or consider getting an extender to ensure a strong signal.
Power and Lighting –
You may need task lighting if working outside on cloudy days or after dark, and, at some point, you will surely need to charge your phone or laptop. Rather than having to head indoors when your battery is low or the sun has set, make sure your outdoor office is near a power source. If you plan to create a dedicated outdoor space for work, be sure to include proper outdoor lighting. If you plan on only occasionally needing light to work by, you may be able to get away with just using a desk lamp or table lamp plugged into a nearby electrical outlet.
Comfortable Seating –
Comfortable seating is a must-have for indoor offices and outdoor offices. You cannot concentrate and be productive if you are in pain or uncomfortable, so it is worth investing in a great chair that you can comfortably use for hours at a time. Depending on your outdoor working style, this could be a comfy patio chair with cushions, a Papasan, a hammock, a chair from your outdoor dining set, or a chaise lounge.
Some people can do everything they need to do with just a laptop balanced on their knees and a phone sitting on the arm of their chair. If you are not one of those people, you are going to need some counter space where you can spread out your papers, take notes, or keep office supplies close at hand. An outdoor dining table usually works quite well for this. Other options include a patio coffee table, a bench, a wall-mounted murphy table, or – if you have space and are really committing to this outdoor office thing – a dedicated desk.
If all you need is a laptop, phone, and coffee mug, you might not be concerned about portability. But, if you need a printer, client files, office supplies, or other items that make your work possible, you will need a way to easily move them in and out of your outdoor office. One great solution for this is a wheeled bar cart. This allows you to easily move your work between your indoor office and your outdoor office or to simply bring your work inside when you are finished working for the day or inclement weather arrives.
A bar cart or similar portability option is particularly helpful if you do not have a dedicated outdoor office that provides protection from weather and security for your equipment and files.
Protection from the Elements –
You, your office equipment, and your papers need protection from the sun, wind, and rain. A covered patio will work nicely most days, particularly if you have patio curtains or a privacy screen that can block the wind. When it is raining, you will either need to have a covered patio or an enclosed office space, such as an office pod, shed, or other work area. If you do not have one of these options, you will most likely need to work inside.
As for the sun, you need to be concerned about laptop glare and protecting your skin, so you need shade of some sort. If you do not have a covered patio or patio umbrella, there are many ways you can add shade to your backyard, such as installing a pavilion, building a gazebo, or hanging shade sails. For a more temporary, portable solution, you can also pick up a laptop hood or anti-glare screen protector.
If you plan to leave equipment, supplies, or files outside, you will need to create a secure spot to store them. If your outdoor office is an enclosed space, such as a shed or office pod, this may not be an issue. But if you are working in an open-air, outdoor living area, you do not want to risk expensive equipment or important files being stolen or damaged. A waterproof, locking storage locker should do the trick.
When you are in the middle of an online meeting, a phone call with a client, or a big project, it is a bit of a hassle to go inside to grab another cup of coffee or a cold drink. If you have an outdoor kitchen with a refrigerator, you may just need to add a coffeemaker on the counter to complete your workspace. If not, consider adding a small refreshment station with a refrigerator to make working outdoors more convenient.
Limiting Distractions –
If you share your home with a partner, children, or pets, you probably already know how often you can be interrupted when you are trying to work. It is also easy to get distracted by piles of laundry, dirty dishes, or myriad other household tasks. For some folks, this is the biggest issue when working at home. Simply taking your office outside may be enough to limit interruptions and distractions. If not, you may need to set some ground rules or establish office hours that both you and your family agree to adhere too. If establishing a block of time is not really an option, add a timer to your workspace or a timer app on your phone. When the timer goes off, take a break to move the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer or to check in with your kids to see if they need help with their homework.