Doing Your Homework – Creating the Perfect Home Office

Author: Christopher Middleton

Christopher Middleton is a freelance writer for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Times, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, and Newsweek Magazine. He has been working from a shed in his back garden for the last 20 years.

Christopher Middleton has 1 article.

You are not alone

Far from being embarrassed about not working in some shiny, corporate building in the centre of town, people who work from home have reason to be proud. In fact, they can claim to be part of a new, up-to-the-minute social phenomenon. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people working at home has increased from 2.9 million in 1998 to 4.2 million in 2014.

Not only that, but home workers tend to be higher up the career and status ladder. ONS figures show that 14.8 per cent of people based at home are managers or senior officials, 23.5 per cent are skilled tradesmen, and 35.2 per cent are professionals. Plus they earn an average of £13.23 per hour, compared to the £10.50 earned by those who have to fight their way into work on a bus, a train or in the car (of whom by the way, there are still 25.9 million).

Your Shedquarters

The children’s writer Roald Dahl used his garden shed as an office. So did Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas (his overlooked the sea at Laugharne, in Carmarthenshire).

Not only is there a noble tradition in being hut-based, then, but you get a bit of exercise walking up and down the garden path to work. Working sheds can be anything from a basic 7ft by 5ft model for £429, to a 12 foot by 8ft summerhouse for £3,000. Don’t forget to extend the phone cable and electiricy lines from the house, too.

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For a small percentage of the shed’s asking price, men will come and build your shed. For a little more, they will fit it with insulation (essential in winter), which means you get your own, permanent head office for the same amount of money as it would cost you to rent a commercial premises for just a few weeks.

The wood-stain-making firm Cuprinol run a Shed of the Year competition. To see the huge range of weird, wonderful and prize-winning sheds in which people work, visit the website.

Him or Her Indoors

It is, of course, much easier to work from home, if you’ve got a physically separate office to go to; even if it is just a few yards down the garden. You just don’t have the distractions and temptations (think daytime television, think fridge).

But if your only option is to kit out the spare room as an office, then there are a couple of definite Do’s. The first, is to get yourself a dedicated office phone line, so that your social life (and those of the people you live with) isn’t disrupted by business calls (and vice versa).

The other, is to set yourself a fixed time to arrive in the office each morning. You may not actually have a gimlet-eyed boss watching over your timekeeping, but it helps productivity if you feel that there is. Experience shows that a teddy bear with a stern pair of glasses on his nose can have roughly the same effect!

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And remember, when it comes to knocking-off time, working from home can save you anything up to two hours of rush-hour travel. Which means you’ve got anything from five to 15 hours more free time per week than you had before.

Top of the Range

A home office doesn’t have to be some humble hut. These days, there are all kinds of glamorous and expensive headquarters sprouting upwards from the nation’s flowerbeds and patios. More like elegant mini-bungalows than places of business. For £10,000 you can get a 90-square-foot structure from www.thegardenoffice.co.uk , and for £18,000 a 280-square foot version, with room for more than one member of staff.  A 67.5 sq ft, cedar-clad office costs £8,475 from www.extrarooms.co.uk , a 180-square-foot HQ will set you back £24,740.

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Top of the garden office tree, though, is definitely the Office Pod, a sleek, futuristic structure available from www.officepod.co.uk; they offer a direct debit finance deal, whereby you pay £308 per month.

Are you sitting comfortably?

If you’re going to spend 40 hours a week in office chair, make sure it’s one that supports your back, and allows you to sit comfortably, not all crushed up. It’s definitely worth going to a store with a wide range, such as John Lewis, and getting advice.

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You’re far better spending not £50, but £500, on a chair with proper support (damage your back, and you’ll spend far more than that on osteopathy bills). Oh, and if you do choose to work in a shed, make sure it’s tall enough for you stand upright. Some roofs may start out at eight feet tall, but they slope backwards, which may mean you hit your head every time you stand up.

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