Remember the days of 9-to-5, when everyone began the day with a tiresome trek to work and finished the day stretching out from their desk to walk to the car, bus, or train? These days, that’s not the standard workday anymore.
In fact, while only 7% of the workforce operated on a flexible work schedule before the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing and quarantine restrictions mean that more people are working from home than ever before.
And if home is the new office, isn’t it time to make the new office more comfortable? No, we’re not talking about grabbing extra throw pillows for the couch. We’re talking about creating a space that’s just yours, somewhere you can go to work without being disturbed by the rest of the house.
If you’re struggling with the new work from home environment, a backyard office might be just the solution you’ve been looking for. Here’s a closer look at how you can make a home office that will make your old office jealous.
Backyard Office vs. In-Home Office
A backyard office is not to be confused with an in-home office, though they both have a similar concept (working from home).
When you think of an in-home office, you’re probably thinking of an office space contained within your home. It’s a room designated for work, though much of the time it’s also combined with another room like the living room or bedroom (in other words, a desk in the corner).
A backyard office, on the other hand, is a haven completely separate from your house. Think of it as your backyard shed or sunroom, except it’s a cozy, fully equipped office space.
The key difference is separation. An in-home office is integrated into your home and as a result, is prone to interruptions. How many times have you had to mute a Zoom call to tell your kids to keep it down? Or engaged in a never-ending war with your cat who insists that your laptop keyboard is the only acceptable place to lay in the entire house?
A backyard office is removed enough to give you some breathing space. You can open the back door, take a short stroll through the garden, and step into your office, leaving the kids, your significant other, and the pets to roam of their own accord in the house.
Why Build a Backyard Office?
If that already sounds like a little slice of heaven on Earth, you’re not alone. Backyard offices are seeing a major upswing in popularity thanks to the strange pandemic year that is 2020. After all, this is the year when quarantine and safety concerns brought on a work-from-home revolution and transformed working from your couch into the new normal.
But even in regular times, there are serious benefits to having a backyard office.
Many companies had reservations about working from home because they worried it would harm worker productivity. After all, if your work uniform is pajamas and your boss isn’t there to keep an eye on things, what’s to say that you won’t spend all day watching Netflix?
As the pandemic has shown, while working from home is a challenge, it can actually be a boon for productivity. You just have to know how to manage your time. And the truth is, a backyard office is a great way to ensure productivity when working from home.
A big part of productivity when going to work in an office is your mindset. The act of leaving your house and going to a space dedicated solely to work is a way of creating mental separation. You don’t think about watching TV or going to sleep in your office because you don’t do those things at work. An in-home office, however, does not have that separation.
A backyard office is a great way to reinstate that mental separation. If you only ever work in your office, then it’s easier to get down to business, and it’s a lot easier to have a space solely dedicated to working if you have a separate space to go to.
Look Professional (Even in Your Pajamas)
While we may be working farther apart, that doesn’t mean we’re not seeing our colleagues. In fact, video calls are a popular way to see everyone’s faces, check in on everyone’s progress, and get everyone off to a great start. Plus, there are some meetings you just can’t have via email or a phone call.
There’s just one problem: professionalism.
When you go to an office, it’s a space dedicated to work, which means it’s already designed with professionalism in mind. It’s harder to put out an air of professionalism when your background consists of the kids playing soccer in the living room or you’ve escaped to the one quiet place in the house only to find that it looks like a hurricane came through.
A dedicated backyard office allows you to create a professional space for those meetings that need an outstanding performance. Plus, a separate backyard office means that you won’t have to worry about the cat making a guest-star appearance in your big presentation or the kids calling for you while you’re having a serious discussion with the boss.
Cut Your Commute
What’s the worst part of going to work? It’s not the suits or the hours or the coffee machine being out of coffee again.
When you wake up at early o’clock and roll out of bed to stumble to your car and make it to work in a daze, the worst part of going to work is the commute. The good news? A backyard office doesn’t need any commute at all.
True, it has a longer commute than, say, your couch, but that’s hardly a bad thing when your “commute” is just a stroll through the back yard.
Backyard offices also win out over a cafe, the local library, or coworking spaces for this reason. You don’t need to worry about finding parking and you never need to worry about finding a space to settle down to work. Your backyard office is always waiting for you, and you don’t need to trek to get there.
Have a Dedicated Space
Think about what working from home means to you.
Does it involve playtime with your dog? Regulating the kids’ latest argument? Pushing bills and homework out of the way to clear a space on the kitchen table? If you’re like most people, working from home means, well, working from home, right in the middle of the action, with all the interruptions that working in the middle of the action entails.
A backyard office allows you to step away from the hubbub. Once you close that door behind you, it’s a clear sign to the rest of the household that you’re getting down to business and can’t be interrupted. That leaves you free to get work done, which is the whole point of working from home.
Helps You Get Comfortable
Better still, a backyard office helps you get comfortable.
When you’re working from home at a desk in the corner of the living room or shuffling around the house trying to find somewhere, anywhere, that’s quiet, you’re not comfortable. You’re making do. You might have pockets of comfort, but a lot of the time, you find those pockets of comfort on your couch or your bed, where you’re more likely to take a nap or watch TV.
A backyard office gives you the best of both worlds: productivity and comfort. You can create a space that lets you get down to business without sacrificing coziness.
Want that cushy couch without the distraction of the living room? You can put it in your backyard office. Want an office chair you enjoy sitting in? Your backyard office is the perfect spot. Want to bask in natural light while you work in front of a screen? Give your backyard office some great windows.
While working from home can be just as productive (if not more productive) than working from an office, one of the greatest challenges of remote work is discipline. Because you don’t have your boss or colleagues floating around, it’s harder to stay focused on your actual job, especially because you’re working in a space that isn’t designated solely for work.
A backyard office makes it easier to institute discipline, since you can remove any distractions (which is especially important in a household with young children or pets).
The net result? A backyard office significantly limits the amount of stress you face while working from home.
Unfortunately, working from home means that the stress of your job is intermingled with the various stressors of home. Maybe one of your kids is caught up in drama. Maybe your water is out. Maybe a relative is staying with you and often demands your time.
Plus, your environment is a stressor in its own right. When our environment is messy, so are our minds. Making it work in your available living space often means that you’re dealing with the messes of other parts of your life, which inherently make work more stressful.
A dedicated backyard office gives you a respite from all the noise. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference that investment makes in your sanity and emotional wellbeing.
Make Space for Family Time
But most importantly, a backyard office gives you the chance to make space for family time.
When your work space and your living space intermingle, it’s all too easy to let your work time and your family time run together. After all, your computer is sitting right there, and the boss is being demanding, and it would make your life so much easier if you did just one little thing.
The problem, of course, is that it’s never just one little thing, and family time is what suffers for it. And when the rest of the world is going sideways, family is what you rely on.
At the end of the day, a backyard office is more than just an office. It’s a way to make room for what matters most.
Tips for a Great Backyard Office
Does a backyard office sound like just what the boss ordered? If so, maybe it’s time to build one for yourself. After all, when it’s the choice between an average workday and a workday you actually look forward to, why wouldn’t you invest in a space you enjoy?
That said, a backyard office is more than just a room. Certain features separate a good backyard office from an office you truly love spending time in. And while features may vary somewhat depending on the style of the person in question, all good offices have a few key features in common.
Invest in Good Internet
With everyone moving online and your work collaborations shifting to the digital sphere, good internet isn’t just a good idea. It’s an absolute necessity. And if you want to be truly comfortable in your home work space, setting up good internet is non-negotiable.
Plus, with a backyard office, you may need a separate Wi-Fi connection anyway, depending on how far from the router your office is. Either way, you don’t want to fight with your internet connection when you have a major meeting on the docket.
Let There Be Light
While we all have nightmares about the horror that is office fluorescent lighting, your backyard office doesn’t need to be that way. In fact, if you want your office to be comfortable, good lighting is essential.
First and foremost, pay attention to natural light. If your office is set up to get a lot of natural light during the day, you can use that to your advantage. As for the rest of the light, keep it indirect. Rather than working under the glare of direct lights, work on finding ways to diffuse ambient light.
However, for computer work and other focus-intensive tasks, it’s handy to have a task light dedicated to what you’re doing. A desk light will do the job quite nicely.
You might not have control over the contents of your company’s office, but in your backyard office, you’re the boss. And that means you can control the most important element of the whole office: the comfort factor.
For example, a great way to add coziness and personality to your workspace is to add splashes of color. This could be in the form of pillows, a cushy rug, or even some plant friends to keep you company while you hammer away at the keyboard.
Conversely, if you want your space to be a bit more meditative, keep the colors subdued and layer warm neutrals to add texture without ramping up the volume. Also, don’t forget to add little touches to make it feel homey, like a super soft blanket over your couch.
Comfort is also about personality, so don’t be afraid to add flourishes that make your office your own. Maybe you have art that you really love or inspiring quotes you could frame and hang up. Print some extra photos of your loved ones and hang them up around your space so they can cheer you on during the workday.
Plan Ahead for Storage
Before Building Your Backyard Office
With all of that in mind, let’s talk abou how you can build the backyard office of your dreams. The good news? It doesn’t need to be hard. You just have to know what you’re doing.
Think About What You Want
First things first: think about what you want from a backyard office.
When you work, what does your day look like? Do you spend a lot of time on the phone? Do you spend a lot of time on Zoom? Do you have a lot of papers to manage?
If you spend a lot of time on video calls, for instance, you want to create a background that’s professional and aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, if you don’t spend as much time on video calls but have quite a lot of files to sift through, you’re going to need a lot of easily accessible storage space.
If you’re a creative type, a photographer for instance, you may want your backyard office to include a shooting area and a photo editing setup.
Remember, everyone’s work day is different. Your home office should be equally unique.
Before you go any further, think about what you need and what that means in detail. What are your must-haves? What are your wants? What can you live without?
Find the Right Spot
Once you know what you’re looking for in a backyard office, it’s considerably easier to find a spot in your backyard that works for your setup.
If you want a spot with a lot of natural light, think about how to orient your backyard office to maximize light. If your backyard is shaded, think about where to put your backyard office so you don’t feel like you’re spending all your time sitting in the dark.
You also know the layout of your backyard better than anyone, which means you know areas that are less ideal than others. If a spot has great lighting but is on a hill, that will make it a lot harder to build an office there.
Find a Great Builder
Part of the process of placing and designing your backyard office involves finding a great builder. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be difficult, even if you don’t know anything about building an office.
Start by asking for recommendations from family and friends. Chances are, someone has worked with builders and can speak to their experiences, which is the single best way to discover someone worthwhile--or figure out who to avoid.
From there, you can augment the list by doing a bit of research. Look for builders who have specialized experience building backyard offices--they know what they’re doing and are best equipped to give you the space you’ve been dreaming of. Plus, experienced builders already know the process and can help guide you through the various hoops and roadblocks.
Once you’ve created a list of candidates, it’s time to start shopping around. Start by looking at their previous work on their website. If you don’t like the style they use for other projects, you won’t like their style on your own project.
After you’ve narrowed your list down, you can start making inquiries. Hop on the phone with a list of questions for each builder, such as, “What is your process for building a backyard office?” or “Do you handle permits yourself?” Any builder worth their salt will be more than willing to answer your questions--after all, you’re entrusting them with a big project.
Part of the inquiry process is about making sure you’re comfortable with the builders. After all, they’re going to spend a decent chunk of time at your home, so you want to ensure you have a builder you like and who you feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable, move on to the next candidate on the list.
Ready to Build Your Backyard Office?
Ready to build a backyard office that puts your old office to shame?
At Acton ADU, we know that you need a comfortable, dedicated space that will allow you to support your family. Our job is to build that space for you, which is why we’ve proudly served families like you in 20 cities and jurisdictions in the Bay Area for the last 30 years.
If you’re ready to create an office space that serves you, let us make that space possible. Get in touch today to speak with our building specialists.