The lexicon describing the choice of places to work is
ever increasing. The now familiar terms home-working and tele-working have been
supplemented with hub-working, co-working, central-working and shed-working. Alex Johnson
refers to shed-working as “the art of working from home in a shed-like space
separate from the house” [1].

Since taking redundancy and setting up my own business six
months ago, I have gradually migrated from the kitchen table to the shed. I do not intend to discuss the merits of shed-working in elaborate detail here.
Alex has already done that and he has done it well using beautiful images of
“shed-like” spaces from all over the world that illustrate his thesis. I can
only offer a personal account of why I prefer shed-working.

After browsing through Alex’s book you will agree that
“shed” is probably an understatement for most of the “shed-like” structures
used as home offices. My own has an insulated roof, large double-glazed windows and doors, 40 mm thick walls and a high pitched roof. It’s more of a mini log cabin than a B&Q garden shed.
Nevertheless, compared to the alternative of extending the house or converting the
loft it was a fraction (20%) of the cost. Also at 12 sqm and with no plumbing
it didn’t require planning permission and the delivery and build was much
quicker and far less messy.

My office

When discussing the merits of shed-working we first have
to separate out the general benefits of home-working. Occasional home-working
provides a break from the buzz of the office, it provides space to focus and concentrate,
it offers solitude, and time to finish that dam report without continuous interruption
from colleagues. It also reduces the time wasted travelling to an office and
the discomfort associated with it – as Alex Johnson eloquently puts it “you get to bypass the sweaty, arduous,
face-in-stranger’s-armpit commute”. But unless you have the luxury of
hiding away in your own private study, working from home is prone to disruption
from the family or other unproductive distractions.

Personally, that the shed is completely separate to the
house is the biggest benefit. Firstly, I have to get dressed for work and make
a short commute. So psychologically I am changing my mind-set to one associated
with going to a place of work. My shed is at the bottom of the garden (behind a
bush), a good 75 m from the house. Once down there I am more inclined to settle
in and “get on with it”. My focus is punctuated with occasional, rather than frequent,
visits to the kitchen which allows me to stretch my legs and rest my eyes.

Secondly, the distance from the house means I have fewer interruptions.
The wife and children never bother me down there. I am not a fan of
architectural determinism but I am a believer in Baker’s behaviour settings [3].
Barker proposed that our experiences and expectations of a space determine how
we behave in that space as much as the physical attributes of it. My family
respect that the shed is my primary place of work and treat it as they would treat
the office of any organisation I worked for. My main visitors these days are
my cats and other distractions come from the occasional squirrel running
across the roof, the pitter-patter of rain and a friendly robin prospecting for
worms – all welcome.

Welcome visitor (Paddy)

Thirdly, as my office is not within the house I can plan
it, design it and manage it as I please. I am quite a tidy person and therefore
my office is also kept tidy. However, like a teenager’s room, I could
technically leave it as messy as I like but, unlike a teenager’s room, without constantly
being told to tidy it up.

There has been some debate around whether occasional
home-working is good for the environment. Although less commuting reduces the
carbon produced there is some concern that homes will be heated for longer offsetting
any environmental benefit. Shed-working means that only a small space needs to
be heated; in my case this is with a thermostatically controlled 2 kW Dimplex
convector heater that is rarely on. And in summer I just open the windows and
cool via cross-ventilation without fear of traffic (air or noise) pollution.

I like to break up the shed-working with occasional
co-working; I joined a London club which I use for formal meetings and informal
networking. But today I have (man) flu so I am having a “duvet day” and working
via laptop – more akin to bed-working than shed-working.

1. Johnson A (2010) Shedworking:
The Alternative Workplace Revolution
. London: Francis Lincoln Ltd.

2. Smarta. Shedworking: The cult of the office garden.

3. Barker R G. (1969) Ecological
Psychology: Concepts and Methods for Studying the Environment of Human Behavior
Stanford University Press.