Working From Residence Strikes Into the Backyard

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Working From Home Moves Into the Garden

This article is part of our special report on Business Transformation, which looks at how the pandemic has changed the world’s business.

In the early days of the offices there was front and back. Now it's house and garden.

When Priscilla Fernandes and her husband Carl Ainsworth moved into a new house in London in 2019, they planned to replace the dilapidated shed with something prefabricated. then an idea came up: replace the shed with an office.

Six months later, with the help of a neighboring carpenter, their shed office was ready. It has a wall-mounted folding table, a workbench to stand on, two windows overlooking her Bromley garden, electricity and an internet connection. An armchair and a bicycle hang on the wall.

"We needed separate rooms to work because we were in virtual meetings all day – we tried to work together at the dining table, but it just didn't work," said Ms. Fernandes, an architect who designs community buildings. “We have a work-life separation between the house and the garden office. And it is a room that we can both use when necessary, for example when we need complete isolation for a presentation or concentrated work. "

More than a year and a half after the pandemic, working from home seems to be an increasingly permanent proposition. Nearly 80 percent of business leaders and 70 percent of the public said people would likely never return to their offices as quickly as they did before the coronavirus, according to a recent UK YouGov poll conducted for the BBC.

This view has accelerated the development of jobs. Many people who have the luxury of working from home, like Ms. Fernandes, find that the kitchen or dining room is insufficient. You have repurposed other rooms or corners and turned cupboards into “cloices”. But that still leaves them at the mercy of the kids, pets, and other distractions. Garden offices seem like the perfect solution. They not only increase well-being, but can also increase the value of a property.

Ross Hogston, director of garden room maker Oakston Solutions in Hampshire south of London, said inquiries and bookings rose 40 percent during the pandemic. The average amount customers spend has grown from around $ 20,500 to around $ 30,000, with some spending up to $ 82,000.

"Demand has slowed as people are returning to the UK office, but interest is still high," said Alison Mansell, a UK-based gardening office consultant who works on Pinterest under the Shed Guru name. “Demand, lead times and designs vary between companies selling 'modular' buildings that can be customized and small 'boutique' companies offering fully bespoke options. There are enough of both. "

Just as working from home was true prior to the pandemic, so did garden rooms, particularly in the UK where many of them serve multiple purposes. Ms. Mansell's site features quirky structures like shepherd's huts, tiny huts with wagon wheels, and corrugated iron exterior that have gained new following during the pandemic.

Other, more elaborate constructions are the Shoffice, a “shed + office” completed in 2012 by Platform 5 Architects in London. Its curvilinear shape unfolds like wood chips. It has two skylights, an oak-lined interior, a cantilever desk, and garden storage space, all hidden behind a 1950s row house in St. John's Wood.

Updated

10/18/2021, 3:56 p.m. ET

The coronavirus has changed the rules of the game for gardening offices, mass production and D.I.Y. Kits. They have performed in places like Italy, Brazil, and Australia and have many names.

"In 2020 we saw an increase in inquiries of almost 80 percent and a sales increase of 70 percent compared to the previous year," said Pierre Dominguez, a spokesman for Greenkub, which has been manufacturing wooden “Studios de Jardin” in southern France since 2013 In addition to a place for older people, customers also want a new job.

"Where a simple office space in the house allows you not to scatter your work all over the house, the garden desk gives you real separation at the end of the day when you leave your workplace."

For $ 22,800, the Californian desk manufacturer Autonomous is offering the WorkPod, a slim D.I.Y. Office kit made of oak, walnut and aluminum that can be assembled in hours. It is approximately 2.70 x 2.70 m in size and has a sliding glass door, windows, lighting, air conditioning and electrical wiring. Almost 120 were sold in the United States.

"Not everyone needs a backyard office, but when you have one you will know it is life-changing," said Victoria Tran, a representative for Autonomous.

Garden pods are even being launched in Japan, known for its button-down work culture, with long work days and commuting on crowded trains. With the Hanare Zen, the housing company KI-Star Real Estate offers an outdoor office with electricity, space for a desk and chair and not much more.

The Hanare Zen is only 3 by 6 feet, not much bigger than a phone booth, and designed to fit on tiny lots. The designers were also inspired by the growing popularity of Takuhai boxes, containers for packages that allow contactless delivery during the pandemic.

The capsule, priced at around $ 4,925 including construction costs, seems appropriate for the cramped land, whose space-saving innovations include capsule hotels and robotic bicycle parking spaces hidden underground.

"As you get closer to the city center, the garden area around the houses shrinks, so Hanare Zen has been made compact enough to fit in," said Yoji Kubota, a company representative. The minimalist design is a nod to Japan's Zen Buddhist tradition.

"You might find enlightenment or something when you work in a confined space," said Mr. Kubota.

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