Garden Office - The ideal working environment
Creating the ideal working environment is as much about the mental as the physical space.
Feeling happy, motivated and valued are essential parts of performing at a high level. With the pandemic firmly established, more and more of us are becoming accustomed to going it alone, away from the physical workplace and distant from our colleagues.
We may have cut down on the commute time, and we’re enjoying more home comforts in our working day – what’s not to love about being able to put on a load of washing in between Zoom meetings? – but with multiple restrictions and distractions, working from home is becoming a major headache, and leading to worrying levels of mental ill-health.
A garden office is a great way to create your own space and get away from the distractions of life in the home – and to enjoy the mentally invigorating experience of being indoors in the outdoors.
And no longer being surrounded by the dirty materials and air-con of your average office will be great for your health: most garden buildings are made from breathable natural timber, they’re easy to ventilate and are well insulated, which means none of the debilitating ill-effects of sick building syndrome.
So a garden office could be the perfect solution to the anxiety and stress of workers worldwide, many of whom are having to set up office in cramped, crowded and noisy spare rooms or on kitchen tables. With a garden office, there’s a real opportunity of no disturbances and no distractions in a workspace that’s healthy for mind and body.
But without the right set-up, there’s a danger of your office away from the office being no more comfortable and professional than the box in the boot room you’ve successfully abandoned.
So here are some tips on arranging your garden office to keep yourself productive and your spirits high.
Just because you’re suited and booted (or whatever your homeworking fashion choice is) doesn’t mean you’ve left your heart indoors. It’s important to remember that working is an emotional experience.
Taking time to look at nature may sound a bit airy-fairy, but it can increase your cognitive processing, creativity and problem-solving. A view over the garden is likely to inspire and motivate you to work, and increase your productivity. So getting your desk in the right spot is massively important to the successful set-up of your workspace. Think about the view, the direction of the sun, and avoiding screen glare.
Getting the right desk and chair is essential to being comfortable and relaxed at work
Make sure you have a chair that is comfortable and correctly adjusted to the height of your desk. It’s important to be physically comfortable and relaxed while you’re working, and a quality chair is a savvy investment.
Compromising on chair quality is easy enough to do (“I’ll just grab that one from the kitchen”), but not worth it: you’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting on your chosen chair, and there’s a serious risk of long-term back pain if you get that choice wrong.
Get all your kit connected, with the right cables, adapters and ports. If you’ve made sure at the design stage of your garden office that you’ve got enough sockets, you’ll be able to cut down on extension cables, and avoid the unsightly, and potentially dangerous, excess-flex-mess.
You want to come to work each day excited about sitting at your desk and getting down to work. You don’t want to be distracted by all the tech and housekeeping chores you’ve still not sorted out. They’re a procrastinator’s paradise.
2. Backdrop backstory.
The background on your video calls should project a professional look.
What does your backdrop say about you? Well-read, artsy, with a great taste in soft furnishings? Or someone whose office can’t remember when it last saw a vacuum cleaner? Like it or not, you’ll be judged by what your fellow Zoom participants can see going on behind you. So you need to ensure your background projects the correct, professional look.
The safest bet is to set yourself up against a plain white wall. That way there are no giveaways, the effect is clean, and you could be anywhere. You could go to the other extreme and explore the range of ‘virtual’ backgrounds offered by Zoom, from penthouse apartment to creepy Gothic attic.
But if you want to project something of your persona without giving away too much of your real self, try positioning some neutrally-coloured shelves behind you and arranging a few items of interest on them – books, plants, photos, and so on. Just enough to say something about you and still be easy on the eye.
And before going live, try turning your camera onto your backdrop so you can see what they see, and make any changes you think necessary.
3. Staying connected
Nothing kills productivity like an unbearably slow internet. Your garden office is unlikely to be in range of your in-house router. But your tech hang-ups are of little concern to the customers and colleagues trying to have a conversation with you.
It’s incredibly frustrating being in a meeting with someone whose signal is wobbly, and it’s essential you don’t allow poor connectivity to spoil your garden office experience.
So, if you can’t get a line connected directly to your garden office, try a wifi booster, which extends the signal from the router in your house, or think about a data-run portable router. Sold by many providers, these little boxes support local-sim cards. Simply load up the data and off you go. Don’t settle for bad internet!
With mental ill-health levels on the rise since the COVID outbreak in March 2020, staying connected with others is more vital than ever. Those of us fortunate enough to be in work are feeling the pressure to spend more of our lives at work. Without the right support, this can lead to stress, fatigue and isolation.
Do your best to build in time to keep up communication with colleagues. Evidence from psychologists suggests that staff at collaborative firms are twice as likely to experience workforce and revenue growth as those who don’t enjoy a collaborative working environment.
So book in one-to-one calls, catch up regularly with colleagues, and make sure you’re participating keenly in all those Zoom calls. Don’t be the one on mute with the video off – that’s a sure way to reinforce your sense of isolation.
4. Flower power
Plants are an aesthetic addition to the office – and bring life.
We’ve already mentioned how having your office in the great outdoors is likely to be positive for your mindset. Bringing your indoors to life with green plants and cut flowers is also great for the grey matter.
A splash of natural life will provide a beautiful aesthetic, bring the outside in, and help the air in your garden office stay clean and fresh – which is what you need to keep alert, creative and positive.
If you haven’t had plants before, and don’t want the hassle of maintenance, try some simple succulents. They need little attention and can look just as good. Or if you’re looking for zero-maintenance, try buying fake. They’re not the real thing and won’t clean your office air through photosynthesis, but they can look gorgeous. And no watering required.
Other ways of injecting some more life and energy into your office:
- try standing: creating a simple stand-up desk is great for thinking on your feet (!), can make you more mentally alert and helps with posture and fitness.
- style up your office: giving your space some lovely touches of your own will make it even more pleasurable to work in. Check out some of our ideas on how to style your office.
- play music: Classic FM, Smooth Chill or Desert Island Discs; whatever your taste, background melodies fill the silence and are great company (or just open the windows and listen to the birds!)
- put up pictures: when you’re at work, it’s important to keep all your senses stimulated. A photo of someone you love will trigger the release of oxytocin, making you feel safe and secure; a giant oil abstract will inspire creativity and get you thinking outside the box.
We’re trying to make it business as usual. Our show site is closed until further notice, but we’re still taking enquiries and processing orders. So do get in touch.