Working from home can be a treat. If you’re self-employed, it can drastically cut costs because you don’t have to worry about rent, office security, and associated overheads. If you work remotely, you can save the time and expense of commuting to work. Working in your house offers more opportunities for family bonding, which is especially helpful if you have young children or elderly parents and you want to make the most of your time together.
The downside of working where you live is the potential for distraction. It could be as mundane as having to do housework and lacking the motivation to get out of bed, or as genuine as getting caught up with family errands because ‘you don’t have to go to work.’ You can suddenly find yourself being the family chauffeur, or inadvertently take over tasks that were previously shared. It seems reasonable and practical, but it takes a toll on your work.
Set the ground rules
One of the simplest ways to avoid these interferences is to schedule structured ‘office hours’. During this time, your housemates should act exactly as they would if you were at an office outside the home. They can’t interrupt except in emergencies, or walk into your office on a whim. Of course this requires you to have a designated office space…
Garden sheds can make a convenient location for your home office. They’re close enough to the house that you can be reached when you’re needed, but detached enough to give you some independence and autonomy, as well as the illusion of space. Having a dedicated office is also more professional than having client meetings inside your house. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to formalise the old shed into a pristine workspace.
Build a gate
The biggest downside of inviting potential business partners into your home is they may not take you seriously. It can be hard for anyone to sign a million dollar deal when your spouse is yelling at you to check on the kids, or your mum is shouting for her pink pills. Secure the concept of work-life distinction by installing a separate entrance to your garden shed.
It can be a little gate and pathway that allows your clients to access the office without going through the main house. You could even erect a little fence so that your office has its own mini yard. Adjust the landscaping and hardscaping to give it a more corporate feel, distinguishing it from the homely décor in the rest of your yard.
Install some office basics
If your main house has a landline, put an extension in the shed that can access external phone calls. You could also buy a dedicated mobile phone or satellite phone that you only answer during ‘office hours’. Leave your ‘work mobile’ in the shed when you ‘go home’ in the evening, so that your customers adapt to office hours too. An internet connection is a must.
You should also call in a contractor and have them install basic plumbing in the shed. Ideally, you want a functioning toilet so that you – and your clients – don’t have to relive yourselves in the main house. If you have the space, you can install a kitchenette with a sink, a mini fridge, and a microwave so you can serve coffee and snacks during meetings. It also reduces the temptation to procrastinate work by foraging in your home kitchen.
Insulate the walls
Garden sheds aren’t generally intended for prolonged occupation, so the walls can be quite thin. Apply a layer of insulation to make them more comfortable. You can supplement with a portable fan when it gets too hot, or a portable heater for chilly work days. Bring in some office furniture as well. Comfortable swivel seats and a firm desk make a good start.
Have some shelving or storage cabinets installed, and you can use screens to designate the ‘waiting area’ from the ‘private office’ or ‘conference room, of your shed is large enough. If you’re open to remodelling, you can enlarge your shed windows for better lighting and ventilation. You could also paint the shed in formal tones to enhance that corporate ambience. Don’t forget to dress appropriately. No pyjama in the office.