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At the height of the pandemic, more than one-third of U.S. households reported working from home, according to a Census Bureau survey. Many folks have not gone back to the office, or continue to work from home for part of the week. And come summer, the temptation to work outside, bathing in the fresh air and sunshine, can be great.
But if you truly want to move your office outdoors, there’s more to it than plunking down in a deckchair with your laptop. A proper setup requires a variety of things, from gear to ergonomically sound fixtures. Here’s what you need and what you need to consider to create a high-functioning home office in the back (or front) yard – your guide for the ultimate external workspace.
What furniture will your backyard office need?
If you’re setting up an outdoor home office, one of the first things you have to consider is the furniture itself: desks, chairs, and other accessories. Of course, you’re not going to be able to set up a full standing desk or rolling chair in your front yard, but you don’t want to sit in a cheap folding lawn chair, either.
Consider getting some durable and weather-resistant patio furniture as your base: perhaps a wood or rust-resistant metal table alongside a matching chair. You can also opt for a chair that has fade-resistant fabric so it can stand up to the sun beating down on it all day — something your indoor furniture would be unable to withstand.
You also might not fare well if you’re in direct sunlight from 9 to 5, so consider a canopy to protect yourself. You can find camping chairs with built-in canopies, or you can opt for a stand-alone canopy or an umbrella that will give cover to your full workplace set-up.
Since most outdoor furniture isn’t set up with office ergonomics in mind, you’ll have to supplement them. Consider getting a lumbar support pillow or seat cushion to pad your chair and make it easier to sit in for extended stretches. You can also find portable laptop stands or lap desks to get the right angle for typing and viewing, along with sturdy support for the computer itself.
What tech will your backyard office need?
It’s almost certainly best to use a laptop as your primary device. You can probably get most of a full day’s worth of work out of it, but in case you do need a charge, consider keeping a battery pack or power bank with you — much easier than running an extension cord to plug into an outlet. Find one with multiple USB ports so you can fully utilize it for your phone or peripherals.
Consider supplementing your laptop with a keyboard and a mouse; they’re often more dexterous and ergonomically easier on the wrists, especially if you do a lot of typing. Even better, make that a wireless keyboard and mouse. Be aware that they probably will need recharging every few months or so. Or you might want to invest in a wireless charging pad for them and for your phone.
The aforementioned canopy or umbrella should provide shade to keep your devices from overheating. But if the temperature routinely rises extremely high, consider getting a cooling pad for them to rest on; some of the fancier brands are equipped with speakers and USB ports.
Even with a covering, consider adding an anti-glare screen or getting anti-glare sunglasses to wear while you work to prevent eye strain.
What infrastructure will your backyard office need?
Staying connected is key to your work-from-home setup, and that’s especially true when setting up an outdoor office. If you stay close enough to the house, your home’s Wi-Fi might be strong enough to provide steady reception and speedy service. But if it’s not — because of distance or hard-to-penetrate walls — you may need a wireless Wi-Fi extender or repeater in order to help the signal stretch.
If you’ve a big house, or your work draws heavily on the Wi-Fi, it might be worth it to install a full mesh router system. Aka mesh networks, these devices extend Wi-Fi throughout your home and environs by using multiple plug-in boxes; though a bit of an investment, they’re especially good at dealing with dead spots, distances and signal-blocking structures.
If feasible, you have an electrician install an additional electrical outlet and wiring to an exterior wall so you can plug in easily, or install a docking station. This might also be handy if you want to string some additional lights around your patio or deck, so you could keep working later.
Otherwise, it’s back to the battery pack. And take cables out with you so you can plug in your devices to the power pack when they need a charge.
Other gear for the backyard office
You’re outside, so you’re going to have to deal with the elements a bit. Since there is no thermostat to set the temperature, a fan can help to keep you cool and refreshed on muggy days. Conversely, if it gets nippy at night or on cloudy days, try adding an outdoor heater.
You’re also going to have to deal with some unwanted office mates: insects. Set up a bug zapper to keep them at bay since you probably won’t want to have water cooler conversations with them. And keep your phone on a stand, making it harder for them to crawl over it.
While nature can provide plenty of soothing sounds, it can have some distracting ones, too. You may want to get noise-canceling headphones to help you focus.
The final word on creating a home office outdoors
Working from home doesn’t mean you have to be stuck inside during the summer days. With the right gear, you can make nature your workplace. And if you want to keep the backyard office open throughout the autumn, consider adding an enclosed porch to your home, or a greenhouse to the grounds.