Back in March, my husband started working from home. It was an arrangement that very much tested my tolerance. I have worked from home for years, so suddenly having a loud-typing-Zoom-all-day co-worker was a bit of a shock to the system.
There were times in those early days when I genuinely wondered if our marriage would survive. And then the schools closed, and I got a big dose of perspective on my husband’s noisy typing – it turns out that it isn’t actually the most annoying sound in the world.
The kids are now back at school, and my husband and I have got into a good working-from-home groove. Now that I’m used to it, I actually like having him around, which is fortunate because he plans to work from home long-term.
And while having a co-worker to take coffee breaks with is nice, having a second desk in the middle of our open-plan living space is starting to wear a bit thin. Could shed home offices be the long-term solution?
Natalie Gordon, brand manager at Aarons Outdoor, says it’s an option a lot of Australians have been going for. “Garden rooms have always been a popular product line for us; however, since late March, we have almost doubled our orders – unprecedented during the ‘slow season’ for outdoor products.”
Of course, you’ll need enough outdoor space to fit a shed. Even something small will take up a hefty section of our inner-west backyard office. There definitely won’t be room for a studio or “granny flat”.
“Think about how much space you need in each direction when deciding on your garden room. Ducking under a low doorway or twisting sideways to squeeze past furniture might be OK occasionally. Still, the novelty will wear off if you are using your space regularly,” says Gordon.
But the advantage of converting a shed into an office space is that it’s a quick way to create another room. We could have another office space without the pain or expense of a renovation. And, as Gordon points out, for most sheds, you don’t even need planning permission.
“If the room or shed complies with state and council requirements as an ‘exempt structure’, you shouldn’t need planning permission. However, if you are going to have customers or clients come to your home office, this could cause an impact on your neighbours and may require planning permission,” she says.
If you already have a garden shed, then perhaps you can turf out the tools and potting mix and convert the space into an office. “If your structure is safe, providing that the space is habitable, in most cases, you can convert a shed or garage,” says Gordon.
“You will also need to check if there are any materials containing asbestos within your structure, as this will make it potentially hazardous to make alterations.”
If you’re going to invest in something new, there are many things to consider before you buy. Structural considerations include ventilation and insulation – as Gordon says, the last thing you need is a freezing cold or steaming hot workspace.
Then there are practical considerations such as electrics (which need to be checked and connected by a qualified electrician) and plumbing (note – if this is something you’ll require, you will need to consult your local council).
In theory, a shed office sounds like the answer to all my problems. The only question is, who will be moving outside, me or my husband?