Turning your shed into the perfect home office

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Working from home has its obvious benefits but it can be a tricky balancing act.

Children, chores and the demands of daily living can be very distracting, so it’s vital to create a place where you can concentrate.

What better place to be productive than in the peace and quiet of a shed at the bottom of the garden? No crushing commute. Just a few paces down the garden path and you’re there. It’s no wonder that one in 10 people now work full-time from home, many choosing to spend their working day tucked away in a ‘shoffice’. But what makes the perfect shed office?

Function. Decide who will use it and when. Do you want the space to have a dual function – perhaps doubling up as a guest room – or would you prefer to keep work and home life completely separate?

Are the children allowed to use the office for homework and study, or is the shed for your eyes only? Treat your home office as seriously as you would a normal office – you’ll need to create a space that allows you to be a productive and focussed worker.

Location: It’s a delicate balance –you need to feel separate from the house – both physically and mentally –to prevent you being distracted by the hustle and bustle of domestic life.

For security reasons, however, it’s important to keep an eye on the shed when it’s not in use. Of all the shed spaces, home offices contain the most valuable equipment – the further away your shed is from your house the more attractive it will be to burglars.

Check that your household policy covers any computer equipment kept in the shed.

Services: A shed office ideally needs to be self-contained. Consider a kitchenette as well as a toilet and hand-washing facilities – endless trips back to the main house will eat into your work time and make it almost impossible to have any fruitful periods of work.

You will also need to be contactable. A phone line and internet facilities are an absolute must for a shed office, even if it’s simply an extension from your main home.

Insulation and heating: Temperature and productivity go hand in hand. For office work, which involves long periods of being deskbound, the ideal is a constant background temperature of no less than 16°C (61°F) – any lower than that and you’ll feel uncomfortable if you sit still for any significant period of time.

Storage and shelving: Adequate storage is absolutely vital for a home office. Clutter is not only unsightly, but it also seriously affects your work performance. A home office needs to be as organised and efficient as any commercial office, so it’s important to have a place for everything and everything in its place.

Above all, you need to keep it a professional space. Don’t let clutter win and try not to use your shed office for storing other things.

Power and lighting: Long lengths of electric cable and overloaded sockets are a health and safety hazard for your shed office.

Make sure you’ve got all the plugs, phone outlets and switches you need, at the correct height and location. For a really neat job, use decorative trucking or conduit to hide the cables.

In terms of lighting, a home office needs a combination of ambient and task lighting. To create ambient lighting, uplighters are a better choice than a central pendant light. This is because they focus the light upwards, towards the walls and ceilings, and won’t create annoying shadows or reflections on your workspace.

You’ll also need a focused task light to prevent eyestrain – an adjustable desk lamp or clip-on spotlight is ideal.

Furniture and decoration: All too often, home offices are furnished with kitchen chairs and occasional tables. These will be crippling to work at.

Buy the best office chair you can afford – one that offers flexibility and back support – and a desk which works with the height of the chair.

Most office desks are around 70-75cm high. If possible, arrange your work area in an L or U shape – this helps to keep all the essentials within easy reach.

As for decoration, choose a design scheme which works for you.

Colours can have a profound effect on mood and productivity levels, so pick a shade which makes you feel calm but alert.

Colour psychologists have their preferred choices for office spaces and often suggest greens and blues, both of which are soothing and balancing, but it depends on what you want from your work space.

Experiment with how a colour makes you feel.

There are lots more ideas for outdoor living in the inspirational Shed Chic by Sally Coulthard (Jacqui Small)

You can also visit Sally’s blog at http://thegardendecorator.blogspot.com

Sally is a writer who lives and works in North Yorkshire.