Outdoor Office: 5 Essential Elements

Tropical Home Office design by San Francisco General Contractor RYAN ASSOCIATES GENERAL CONTRACTORS

Not long ago, I discussed the advantages of integrating natural elements in your home office. Along with better productivity and less stress, a natural setting can also stimulate creativity.

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that’s warm all year long, you may actually want to to go a step further and plan an outdoor office. And even if you aren’t, with the information from this post handy, you’ll have time to plan your new outdoor office for next summer.

So what are the essential elements to keep in mind while planning an outdoor office? Here’s what you need to do.

1. Connect power to your outdoor office

The first thing to consider when planning an outdoor office is power access. Not only will you want to plug your computer in (even laptops can’t hold their charge that long), but you’ll probably also want to extend your wi-fi network outside and install some lighting for cloudy days or if you’re more of a night owl.

Most homes have some kind of outdoor electricity outlet, but it may not be practically situated. Pulling an extension cord through the patio door is great as a temporary arrangement, but ultimately, you’ll want to get a reliable outlet you can easily access from your outdoor office space.

If you’re not sure how to proceed, contact an electrician. Better safe than sorry!

2. Prepare space for your outdoor office

Most outdoor offices don’t need a lot of space (after all, you’re outside and aren’t limited by walls around you), but you’ll want to at least prepare a space on your patio or your terrace to place your desk, your chair and any other furniture you may need. Trust me, your typical patio table and chairs aren’t comfortable enough for working in all day, especially if they’re the cheap, plastic kind.

This exercise might require you to compromise with current patio furniture, but more often than not these pieces can easily be moved around and stacked. Working with a desktop computer can limit your possibilities (the desktop becomes a more or less permanent fixture as long as the weather is appropriate) while arranging space for a laptop computer can help you compromise between patio and office furniture.

The flooring your office is installed on is also an essential part of preparing the space. Today, there are a variety of decking materials available that won’t heat up in the sun and won’t deteriorate after one season.

3. Protect your outdoor office from bad weather

Even in the driest and sunniest of weather, rain and hail can still happen. And obviously, rain and electricity don’t mix, so you want to have your outdoor office protected at all times from bad weather.

One way to do this is to install a ceiling above your outdoor workspace. Many corporate outdoor office spaces integrate full ceilings with plants and ivy and even incorporate sliding glass doors. However, this requires more budget, and may not be practical given the size of your backyard. You can replace it by a cheaper gazebo, which will also protect your equipment from rain and the harmful rays of the sun.

Another solution, especially if your outdoor office is on the patio, near your house, is to install a retractable awning. Those awnings are getting cheaper every year and can be deployed quickly.

4. Get quality furniture for your outdoor office

Have you ever tried to sit at the patio of a coffee shop to work all day? While it can be reinvigorating for a short while, typical outdoor furniture isn’t especially built for comfort. However, furniture companies are starting to pick up on the trend and provide comfortable, high-quality outdoor furniture that can become more permanent fixtures to your patio or terrace.

A good desk and an adjustable chair should be your most important buys. You will want to avoid metal, as it tends to rust over time, even in the sunniest climate. Wood is always an excellent choice, but make sure that it is treated for outdoor use before you install it outside. Since you’ve protected your working space against bad weather, water should not cause bad damage.

5. Get extras for your outdoor office

When all these basic elements are in place, you’re ready to sit down and get to work. Or are you?

Freelancers and professionals working from home will need a stable Internet connection. Most wi-fi routers are powerful enough to provide a good connection outdoors, but if you find your connection slow or if it drops often, you can either relocate the router closer to your outdoor office, or install what is called a “range extender” (usually under $100).

If you keep paper files and other materials around for your work, you may need to get a filing cabinet to avoid always having to go back inside to get documents. Since most filing cabinets are made of metal, you will want to keep it under your desk or table and away from potential contact with rain.

How about installing a small refrigerator for your cold drinks and snacks? You won’t have to constantly go inside to get refreshments.

Get your patio ready

If you’ve been thinking about renovating your old patio or installing new patio or terrace space in your backyard, this might be the perfect moment to integrate some essential elements of an outdoor office, just in case. What if you can’t resist working outdoors after having put so much energy in making your backyard comfortable? You may find new inspiration there.

Have you ever thought about getting an outdoor office? Do you like the idea of working outside or do you find it too distracting? Share your reactions and thoughts in the comments!


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