Wednesday, February 28, 2007

National Work from Home Day

For the 300th post on this site it seems appropriate that it should be about a day set aside for homeworking. Work Wise UK has decided that its now annual Work Wise Week will this year run from May 16 to May 22 (why a Wednesday to a Tuesday? Apparently to demonstrate flexible work patterns, that a week does not have to conform to the traditional Monday to Friday), taking in National Work from Home Day on May 18 (which is a Friday, often a popular choice as a day for working from home according to CBI research). Work Wise Week 2007 will include a summit at the QEII Conference Centre in London to review the first year of the campaign. Other days will look at the impact of smarter working on the environment, transport, staff welfare, and on the employer through higher productivity. There will also be several regional events around the country following the same themes. Watch this space for more news.

Between Starbucks and Regus

There's a very interesting piece about third place working or co-working facilities - a kind of friendlier serviced office - in Business Week called Where the coffee shop meets the cubicle (also highlighted at BoingBoing). "Over the past few years, co-working facilities—both grassroots, co-op-like versions and for-profit models—have started popping up across the country and the world, from Seattle to Copenhagen," writes Kerry Miller. The article looks at the various benefits, both in terms of networking and collaboration between small businesses, and in terms of dealing with problems of isolation. Lots of excellent examples too in their slideshow here. Thanks to Alan Bucknam for letting me know about this. As he says: "Co-working areas provide a nice social (yet still productive) respite from the isolation of a home office. Don't get me wrong, I love working at home, but sometimes you need to actually interact with others to keep yourself from going cuckoo." I completely agree, which is why it's lucky there is a pub at the end of my road...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sometimes DIY garden offices are not a good idea...

A tale to send shivers down the spines of anybody who fancies themselves as a bit of a Bodge the Builder in today's The Sun. They report how Stephen Lynch dug up his back garden really rather badly (there was subsidence danger to neighbours' homes) and it's going to cost him £50,000 to put it right again. The nice but at the same time horrific photo is by Jamie Jones.

Homeworking data protection

Computer World has a good piece on cutting security risks for homeworkers. It also includes six tips from research firm Gartner on how to stay safe:
* Turn off the service set identifier broadcast on all internal, nonpublic, nonguest access points
* Migrate to WPA2-compatible wireless LAN network interface cards (NIC), wireless drivers, supplicants and access points on all new purchases
* Install a personal firewall in every laptop with a wireless NIC
* Keep WLAN card drivers up to date
* Turn off peer-to-peer/ad hoc networking
* Don’t allow wireless and wired NICs to be active at the same time on a client system

Monday, February 26, 2007

Choosing a shed - Spacebox

If you liked the post last week about the perrinepod, I think you'll also enjoy Spacebox. Again, it can be both low-cost living as well as working space, and again it's essentially modular (you don't have to have as many as are pictured here). It's made of high-grade composite materials designed by Mart de Jong of design office De Vijf in Rotterdam. The smallest studio unit is 18 metres squared and can be linked to other 'pods' to create extra bedroom or living space. Each studio contains a kitchen, shower-room/lavatory plus running water, electricity, sewerage and telephone connections. The Spacebox has been around since 2001 and is becoming increasingly international with a UK supplier now too.

Build your own garden office

If you're thinking of going down the DIY route, take a look for inspiration at the Making it Home blog. Pam, an artist and designer near Seattle, is posting regularly on the studio build in her garden. It's shaping up very nicely and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished shed.

Homeworking and networking in Surrey

Homeworking is booming in Surrey, according to The Surrey Advertiser which says that more than half of the county’s start-up and SME businesses now operate from home. Among the most popular types of homeworking businesses are health and beauty related; childcare; garden design; and IT services. It also quotes Woking-based Barbara Edwards, founder member of Guildford Independent club, establlshed to increase social and networking opportunities for local homeworkers. "But I do feel there could be more support for homeworkers in terms of networking groups," she says. "The main ones in this area tend to be flooded with accountants and solicitors and don’t cater for smaller operations.”

Writers' Rooms

As I mentioned earlier this year, The Guardian is running a series of pieces in its Saturday books section on Writers' Rooms and they've now put them online. It's well worth taking a look - the links are slightly hidden away in the righthand column of their page a fair way down but here are the folk so far.
Ahdaf Soueif
Hilary Mantel
Sarah Waters
David Hare
Michael Frayn
Beryl Bainbridge

Friday, February 23, 2007

Home office pod

Although it's really designed as a living space, the marvellous Perrinepod by Australian Jean-mic Perrine, can also be used as a garden office, and since it's stackable, you can even have several stories. "The perrinepod is very functional, very sexy, very simple, with the form of the spaces inside following the function," says Perrine. It's made from aerated, polished, concrete with a bit of aluminium and glass and can be built in a day. Naturally it comes with all electrics and plumbing as standard. Although it comes in three sizes, the most suitable for a home office is the 8m x 6m version. There's an in-depth feature on Perrine at the site here.

High-tech nomadness

If you were intrigued by the post earlier this month about working on wheels, take a look at Steven Roberts' spectacularNomadic Research Labs site. Essentially, Roberts customised his recumbent bicycle to include a portable computer so he could pedal around the US and write about the journey on the road, what he calls 'high-tech nomadness'. Some amazing pictures and it's well worth having a look around the rest of the site, especially the Behemoth section and Microship Adventure (where he details how he is putting together an amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran, designed for technomadic adventure).

From shed to world

In the latest edition of Business Weekly, Ben Fountain reports on Suffolk-based Pipeshield and its MD Steve Howlett. The company brings green technology to the world of offshore drilling and is just about to make an international impact. But it all started in a garden shed where the first trials were with a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer and flour sieve.

Me Space

Working in a garden office is very much about 'me space' so I was intrigued by these comments from David Wilson Homes who say there is a new trend towards homeowners looking for personal space and escape within the home. Ian Webb, group marketing director for David Wilson Homes, comments: “As home technology has grown, the bathroom has become for many the only room in the house without some form of communication or IT equipment; in fact, in our survey 26 percent of respondents said that the bathroom was their dedicated quiet space with no technological distractions, where respondents could escape to, to completely relax and switch off. But with the introduction of bathroom focused IT - like waterproof televisions, integrated music systems etc - the result for many is that as bathrooms are updated with the latest mod cons, we will see the demise of its role as a ‘sanctuary’.”

So the next big thing in home space engineering is? According to Webb, a meditation, Yoga or ‘quiet room’. “Whilst we are predicting a rise in quiet or mediation rooms within the home, it is important not to be prescriptive...whether it is a bedroom, a yoga room or a reading room, each individual can adapt their me-space to suit their lifestyle.”

Plants keep your garden office healthy

Chemicals are found in many everyday shedworking situations, writes Richard Boyd, director of garden design specialists Real Oasis. Benzene, for example, is found in inks, paints and plastics and can cause nausea, headaches and blurry vision as well as being linked to kidney damage. Formaldehyde, a chemical found in pretty much all indoor environments including foam insulation and pressed wood products, irritates the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat.

The answer? As you know, it’s simple: get a plant for your shed to help filter the air and reduce the noxious rubbish hanging around. A plant, yes, but which one? A Spider plant could be a good start since scientists estimate that they remove more than 95% of carbon monoxide from the air. To combat the nastiness of Formaldehyde you could try one of the following:
* Azalea
* Dieffenbachia
* Philodendron
* Spider plant (pictured)
* Golden pathos
* Bamboo palm
* Corn plant
* Chrysanthemum

If you’ve got a nasty case of Benzene (or even Trichloroethylene) then you should consider bringing in perhaps an English ivy, Peace lily, Chrysanthemum, or Gerbera daisy.

This article first appeared in the current issue of The Shed. For a free copy email me here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

This blog appears on the BBC

Well, I say 'appears', actually they've simply printed part of the comment I made here last week on tonight's new Peter Davison sitcom Fear, Stress and Anger about how I wonder how many homeworking clichés they'll slip in. Unlike The Guardian earlier today they've not decided to reword it although it's hardly flattering ("I have my fears that it will be stuffed with all the usual clichés.")

This blog featured today in The Guardian

Well, I say 'featured', actually they've simply printed the comment I made here last week on their story about hackers targeting homeworkers for their Letters and Blogs page in today's technology section. They've decided to reword it slightly for no obvious reason, but it's nice to be noticed all the same.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Choosing a shed - Chart Stables

The Kent-based Chart Stables produce a wide range of timber buildings including summerhouses, workshops and what they call 'garden houses' (home offices). They were set up in 1994 and have had their own purpose-built manufacturing workshops since 2005. Their garden offices contain the usual suspects (lighting, power points, treated timbers, double glazing, etc) with 150mm of floor insulation and 100mm of wall and roof insulation. You can download a full spec from the site.

Two thirds of UK workforce homeworking by 2011?

New flexible working patterns will see a huge increase in homeworking according to communications integrator Affiniti. The research also claims that more than a third of respondents said they would demand this kind of flexibility when looking for a new job and more than two thirds said they wanted to work from home to improve their work/life ratio. Gary Young, Managing Director of Affiniti, said: ‘‘Collaborative working will undoubtedly drive the workplace of the future, meaning people can be engaged both socially and professionally from home whilst helping to protect the environment. Organisations and employees alike must understand how communications technology such as wireless working, video conferencing and mobile technology will help drive this revolution.’’ The study also suggests that eco-friendly working is also a priority among workers.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is the garden buildings industry in trouble?

A report from Research and Markets (extract at Business Wire) suggests that 28% of UK garden buildings companies are in financial danger. I haven't seen the full report so can't really comment, although the list of companies examined suggests that it's not specifically garden office specialists that are being looked at. It also claims that:
* five companies are blatantly selling at a loss to capture market share.
* average pre-tax profit was 4.6%
* average sales growth was -1.1%
From the correspondence I receive from garden office suppliers and from anecdotal evidence (including via this blog and The Shed magazine), my feeling is that the demand is high and growing.

Choosing a shed – Shepherds' huts

Once upon a time shepherds had to spend so much time out in the fields that they needed somewhere to have their lunch and have a snooze. What did they have? Shepherds’ huts. You can follow their example today (adding a wi-fi connection to the sandwich and siesta) thanks to several specialist shedworkers including Dorset-based Butterfield Ironwork. They recreate these huts using the same old-fashioned methods, building them from Cedar or Douglas Fir (sourced sustainably). An example is pictured left. They often use original salvaged cast iron wheels or cast new ones from traditional patterns. Other iron fittings (forged axles, bolts, roofbars and the like) are created in-house.

The Shepherd’s Hut Company offer a similar range of handmade beauties and quite rightly point out that they “blend into gardens, fields and woodland alike, making a wonderfully romantic alternative to conventional garden structures.” For more comfort their huts also include safety glass and wood laminated floor, and come with attractive add-ons including wood burner stoves. One of their ‘office’ huts is pictured. Of course the corrugated galvanised steel roof comes as standard.

Not only lovely, these huts also have many literary connections. In Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd Gabriel Oak had one on Norcombe Hill and in John Clare’s famous poem November he describes how a shepherd hears a storm coming and wisely hurries home to the safety of his hut. Perhaps we should do the same.

This article first appeared in The Shed magazine. For a free copy email me here.

Training for homeworkers

It won't come as a great shock to those of us working from home that flexible workers are often overlooked when it comes to training, as an article in Personnel Today by Sarah-Jane North explains. Christina Evans, strategic HR specialist at the management education centre Roffey Park, is quoted as saying: “The long-term career development of flexible workers is definitely an emerging issue. There would appear to be a different perception of what career development is when you are not within the traditional career structure." There are also numerous examples of how large companies are dealing with this emerging challenge/problem. If you're working flexibly or employing flexible workers, this piece is a must-read.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fear, Stress and Anger

Look out next Thursday at 9pm on BBC2 for a new sitcom featuring Peter Davison, Fear, Stress and Anger. Davison plays Martin Chadwick who works in advertising and, because of an office reorganisation, is forced against his will to work from home. It’s interesting that homeworking is the central McGuffin of a new primetime-ish sitcom, but I have my fears that it will be stuffed with all the usual clichés – look out for working in pyjamas, homeworking as an excuse to do no work, watching daytime television, and being sidetracked from important deadlines by domestic distractions.

Music while you work – Erik Satie

Although he’s known best for his Gymnopédies, Satie also wrote the less widely known Musique d’ameublement, or Furniture Music, which was to be played ‘for people not to listen to’, the forerunner of Muzak (only much, much nicer). There's an excellent description of this by Orenella Volta in the sleevenotes to the CD of Yutaka Sado conducting Satie and the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux (Erato) which features examples. "He had noticed – long before recorded music became widespread – that people liked to have a background of sound as they went about their daily tasks," she writes, "but without having to pay too much attention to it, so he came up with an idea for a consumer product especially designed with this in mind. It was to consist of pieces named after the places in which it was to be ‘used’ (a bistro, a living room, etc). Each piece was to be made up of an assortment of motifs taken preferably from the repertoire of composers one dislikes. These motifs were to be repeated an unspecified number of times – ‘as often as one wants, but no more than that’ – by musicians positioned in the four corners of the room. The aim was to surround the audience – who were busy talking, walking around, or drinking – with sound.’

Tiny houses

We've covered the subject of tiny houses before here and in The Shed magazine, but no apologies for including this marvellous slideshow from the New York Times on the subject which also touches on the increasing interest in pre-fab buildings in the US, something we still haven't really cottoned on to over here in the UK.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jeanette Winterson's 'shed'

Jeanette Winterson writes nicely about her garden office/outbuilding in today's edition of The Times. Her piece, Free space for the mind, focuses on her 'shoffice', planning permission and her general enjoyment of her outbuilding. "For me, an outbuilding is an essential part of life," she writes. "I do not care if it is a shed or a caravan, a cabin or a beach hut...There is romance in an outbuilding, perhaps because it is nondomestic space, and perhaps because you can make it your own without being too sensible or practical. If you want state-of-the-art, fine, but anything between a plasma wall and a cave is good. An outbuilding can be very basic or very fancy. It is free space for your mind." Her 'shed' was built by Courtyard Designs. It's a nice article and, like everything she writes, well worth reading.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


While I like to promote shedworking as being something which both sexes can enjoy, there is a considerable literature looking at the subject from a very Men and Sheds angle. A new title, Manspace by Sam Martin (author of How to Mow the Lawn - The Lost Art of being a Man), certainly falls into that category: the subhead is A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory - not very reconstructed 21st century metrosexual really. Here's the blurb:

"Men, you’ve surrendered your space. You lifted your feet and saw your freedom of expression vacuumed right out from under you. The room where you kept your stuff – where you didn’t need coasters or even a garbage can? It’s a laundry room. Or a sewing room. Or a nursery. You know you need your space, but what’s the answer? Manspace! It’s the shot in the arm, the rallying cry, the inspiration for guys like you to take back a little piece of territory, to have some space where you don’t have to change shirts or pick up after yourself. With more than 50 great guy places like recording studios, drinking sheds, workshops, and general all-around hangouts, Manspace shows you what and it shows you how."

And to get a feel for the book, try the online site here.

Bank hackers target home workers

A slightly worrying article on the front page of The Guardian's technology section today in which Pete Warren reports on criminals targeting homeworkers as a backdoor entrance to banks' computer information. "The hackers make the assumption that the computers being used outside the work environment are more vulnerable than those protected by a corporate IT department," he writes, adding that the Houses of Parliament have also been targeted, as have social networking sites. The moral, as always, isn't to get all worried about homeworking, but just to make sure that homeworkers are as protected as those in 'traditional' office situations.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


If you're thinking of getting a garden office, there's a good chance that you will have space for some element of decking. There's plenty of information at The Timber Decking Association , an independent advisory body providing guidance on the materials and installation practices required for high quality deck and landscape structures. You can use the site too for tracking down local decking experts. Also worth browsing through is My Life on the Deck, a blog from Leanne Tremblay on "designing, building, and sprucing up backyard decks". She should know all about it since she has a multilevel deck.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

American homeworking statistics

Some interesting statistics about homeworking in the USA in Business Week. Charlie Grantham, executive producer of consulting firm Work Design Collaborative, is quoted as saying that around 14% of the U.S. workforce works from home at least two days a week, a jump of more than 10 per cent from three years ago, and that he expects a 17 per cent jump over the next two years. The article also points out other benefits to companies such as slowing employee churn and simply costcutting: at IBM, more than 40 per cent of the its 330,000 employees work on the road, from home, or at a client location, saving it $100 million in property-related expenses a year, while call centre specialist VIPdesk keeps 85 per cent of its employees every year, compared with the 10-20 per cent rate for traditional call centres.

Siestas are good for you

Though I dislike the clichés that surround homeworkers (i.e. that they're essentially slackers), no apologies for continuing the blog's ongoing campaign to encourage a greater uptake in siestas.The Guardian newspaper is among those reporting on the latest findings which suggests that siestas can seriously reduce your chances of dying of heart disease (or 'coronary mortality' as they put it). A midday snooze, even an irregular one, is particularly good for those whose work is more physical than tapping away at a keyboard. For more on siestas, click here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Second life - free virtual office facilities at depo

We reported on depo consulting last year and how they were doing business online at Second Life. Here is their response: "Thank you for taking an interest in our Second Life adventures. Since December we have built a virtual office, designed by a New York architect who has work for REM's Michael Stipe and Woody Allen in his portfolio. It is due to be featured in the next edition of Building Magazine. We really think that the virtual office is the future and are keen to have people try out the facilities. Hopefully it will open the possibility of shedworking for many more people.

"If your readers are interested, all the facilities are available free of charge to anyone looking to experiment with holding meetings and events on Second Life. We have meeting rooms that hold up to twelve, and a really rather attractive auditorium that will hold about 30 people. We also have an underwater coral meeting room for those looking for something a little different. The main rooms have multimedia screens, so you can give presentations.

"You can find us by searching for depo in places on Second Life, or our contact details are on our web site - please book before using the rooms, and we will make sure there is someone to set you up with all the permissions and to show you how to use everything."

Pictured is part of the depo facility on Second Life.

Government gets serious about flexible working

As reported everywhere, including here at The Times and here at the BBC, everybody (not just carers and parents) should get the chance to ask for flexible working patterns, according to children's minister Beverley Hughes. In a book (Politics for a New Generation) scheduled to be published this spring by the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, Hughes writes: "Work-life balance is still unobtainable for many low-income families, where the impact of low pay, job insecurity and long or atypical working hours bite hardest." It's fairly obvious who thinks this is a good idea (e.g. equality campaigners Fawcett Society) and those who are not so keen (CBI, Federation of Small Businesses).

Soundproof your home office

If for whatever reason you need to soundproof your home office, it's probably best to forget the eggbox solution and talk to the professionals. Among those offering silent services are NoiseStop Systems. Their web site has just about every conceivable way of stopping noise whether it's for walls, floors or ceilings plus a useful FAQs section and details on stopping noise pollution. You could also take a look at Domestic Soundproofing and Soundstop

Sunday, February 11, 2007

IKEA's home from home office

As the New York Times reports, IKEA is keen that its new wi-fied US HQ reflects its slogan that 'home is the most important place in the world'. It's worth reading the whole piece which looks at how flexibility is built into all areas. Lena Simonsson-Berge, a senior home furnishings specialist at Ikea, is quoted as saying: “To create a better everyday life is a mission for the customers as well as for the co-workers. You spend a lot of time there, so we want the office and the workplace to be as comfortable, friendly and beautiful as your home is.”

Renault and homeworking

As reported in Auto Industry, Renault has signed an important agreement with its unions. This allows some employees - administrative personnel, technicians, engineers and managers - to work from home two to four days a week if they want to, though they must still spend at least one day a week at their normal workplace. Renault will pay for all homeworking needs e.g. computer, chair, coffee. According to the article: "Renault says the agreement was spurred by recent technological change that facilitate new ways of working and offer interested employees the opportunity to strike a better balance between career and family."

Friday, February 09, 2007


Shed + office = shoffice?

Make concrete floors a thing of the past with Hawklok

If you're thinking of making your own garden office, take a look at Taylors Garden Buildings' blog where they discuss Hawklok, a new product which cuts out the need for mixing and making a concrete base and instead uses a system of tiles made from 100 percent recycled and recyclable long life polypropylene plastic. They're lightweight, solid, free draining and selfventilating. As Taylors say: "There is no excuse for uneven or unprotected, rotting shed floors as anyone can now lay a base for any outdoor building." From £75 for a 6ft x 4ft garden office/shed.

Homeworking cruises

Still working in a garden office or a coffee shop? How last year of you. Don't you know you should be working on water? Christina Jonas at Canoe Travel writes about Celebrity Cruises' whopper of a cruise ship the Century (pictured) which not only has nice new sinks, but also wireless internet access in every room. "The cruise lines have noticed that, despite being on vacation, passengers still want to 'stay connected'," she writes. "Carnival, the largest cruise line in the world, is now offering wireless Internet access on all 21 ships and will have fleetwide cellphone service shortly. "

A more indepth look at cruiseworking is at Roger Dooley's Rogerd's Notebook. Dooley has had mixed experiences with what he insouciantly calls 'cruise ship connectivity'. "We found the small area to be quite busy with quite a few “regulars” who were clearly trying to stay connected to business at home," he writes, saying that the connection was good enough to email and do some business. And as he points out: "If Celebrity and other lines deliver decent broadband access in passenger cabins, that would allow a whole new kind of virtual commuting. Can you imagine doing business from your private balcony as the ship floats around the Mediterranean or Caribbean?" Indeed I can.

Dooley, an experienced direct marketer, concludes that while an onboard virtual office has some drawbacks, it does allow for lots of life/work flexibility, with workers connecting briefly every day while still enjoying a holiday.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow and Starbucks

I've been making a snow den for my boys most of today so have generally been away from the working world. However, work goes on and a friend just emailed me to say. 'Children in the garden since 7am! Then we went to the cathedral grounds where there were hundreds of sledges - the local toyshops have done well this morning. Starbucks was full to the rafters too - all these poor mobile workers taking advantage of Starbucks electricity and wifi sat there since 9am with their laptops, creating their small offices on the tables, blissfully unaware that all the schools are closed and then suddenly WHAM! Thousands of women and small wet crying red-faced children with sledges playing with their cables and destroying the peace! Made me laugh, until I realised that it was actually hell on earth..."

Award for The Shed's PR Director

A hefty pat on the back for Sophie Banks who looks after the public relations side of this blog and The Shed magazine. In the biggest ever Freelance of the Year UK awards organised by people resourcing company Xchangeteam, Sophie has won in the category of PR & Communications and was commended for "generating interest and publicity that led to the client being covered in the regional and national press...virtually saved the company from going under." (not us, I hasten to add). Among her other clients is the new startup Gogoblin which enables children and teenagers to make free and secure online wish lists.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sweeble - news from a shed

It's always interesting to see the wide variety of home-based businesses running out of a garden office/shed. A different kind of news service called Sweeble has just been launched with the catchline on its blog 'Revolutionising online news - from a garden shed in the UK'. It describes itself as: "An open-source built online newspaper where anyone can sign up to write about things that are happening in their own lives, post pictures, videos, music, free ads, or comments - without an editor or moderator deciding what gets published or how a story should be told. Basically mySpace for people with something to say."

Avanta launch new virtual office package

As reported on Webwire, Avanta is launching a new 'virtual office' service called VPA offering all the same options as with its serviced office package but without the actual office bit. It's aimed at homeworkers (among others), particularly those who operate or want to operate in central London. David Alberto, Avanta’s Managing Director, said: “We have developed the VPA virtual office service in response to the day to day needs of those businesses and individuals who simply don’t have the facilities and support network of working in a large corporate office set up. Our virtual office package means that home workers, small business start ups and individuals who’s job is not office-based, need no longer be disadvantaged.”

Garden offices defined

There are probably as many sheds as there are shedworkers, but the Arthouse Gardens blog makes a game effort at dividing them into three categories:
* The "closed" garden office, a small building, shed or converted garage with windows and own electrics
* The "open" garden office, the 'Bedouin' alternative, more patio than shed with plants as walls and no roof
* The best of both worlds, a shedlike building with wide doors so you can work either inside or outside on decking
I also like his more philosophical take on shedlike atmospheres: "Garden offices aren't necessarily meant to be 8 hour a day offices. Sometimes they're designed to inspire the creative type who needs a change of pace. They're designed for the work at home person that loves to watch their pets or children from time to time while they work away and everyone else plays. They're designed to relieve stress for the lawyer, the doctor, the business executive who wants to be close to family but has work to do. They're designed to be used as an extension of the home office when needing to pay bills, plan the grocery list for the week."

Top of the shed blogs

We're honoured to have come top of Uncle Wilco's list of Top Shed Blogs. Wilco - who runs the marvellous and world famous Readersheds site - also has his own Shedblog which brings you all the latest news about, well, guess what? To see the full post, click here.

How green is my homeworking?

Some answers to that question are posed at Green Business News which asks 'The digital home: green living or eco-disaster?'. James Murray writes about the imminent arrival of the interconnected 'digital home' and whether it's really very green to have your own server for the house and deluge it with energy-ravenous electronic goodies. However, he also points out that the latest technologies can actually limit damage "by delivering intelligent, automated household management capabilities" e.g. turns off lights when they're not in use. Well worth a read.

A very fishy home office

There was such a good response to the post about working with fish in the latest issue of The Shed magazine that I thought readers would be interested in this, the Office Fish Tank from Fred Flare. Measuring 7.25” x 6.5” x 5”, when you get bored with your desk, you can watch your fish swim under his. Important note - colours may vary.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Music while you work – Scott Pack

Scott Pack, the former Buying Manager for Waterstone's and now Commercial Director of The Friday Project, the world's first exclusively web-to-print publisher, has an interesting selection of music at his Me and My Big Mouth blog called Soundtrack To The Blog. "I tend to have 2 or 3 CDs on heavy rotation when working at home," he says and lists current favourites in his sidebar, with YouTube links. His choices include Bellowhead, Juana Molina ("a beautiful voice, a beautiful website and hypnotic songs. Her new album, Son, is her best yet and seems to be permanently on the stereo next to my reading chair") and Juliana Hatfield. There's also a couple of marvellous postings illustrating his bookshelves.

Turn your garage into a home office

If a garden office is out of the question, consider a garage conversion. Among firms offering this service is the confidently-titled Garage Conversion Experts (one of their conversions is pictured), Vogue Garage Conversion, Shropshire Garage Conversions, and Garage Conversions UK. For more details about things to consider (insulation, waterproofing, building regulations, fire regulations, party wall acts, etc) Mid Devon District Council has a useful list of dos and don'ts.

Monday, February 05, 2007

RSI Awareness Day

It can hit anyone, but homeworkers seem to be particularly at risk. Depending on who you believe, RSI Awareness Day is either on February 28 or February 24 when there will be a day-long series of events, stalls, and talks on the latest research, the law and RSI, and the latest news on treatments at University College London. For more details click here.

A good first stop is the new RSI charity RSI Action where you'll find a list of support groups around the country plus book reviews. Also take a look at 'The RSI Association site' which is actually run by IT specialist suppliers Keytools and the web site of Dr. Deepak Sharan, described by the Wall Street Journal as "something of a cult figure in the world of RSI".

There are a number of suppliers who realise the importance of keeping the various bits of your body at the right angle, among them Homeworking Solutions who supply ergonomic office furniture and software for offices of all sizes. Also take a look at Maltron who claim to sell the first keyboard "to achieve RSI recovery". Also ergonomically-sensitive are System Concepts who have their own ergonomics and health and safety consultants.

And naturally there are the blogs. RSI Relief is very useful and readable (which can't always be said of articles on RSI) and has stacks of links to other sites, while I also like the look of the optimistically-titled Goodbye RSI, again detailed but personal with posts like 'Beer - the great RSI anaesthetic'.

Super Bowl homeworking

At Poynter, Kenny Irby talks to Gary Hershorn, North American news picture editor for Reuters, about covering this year's Super Bowl. He won't be covering it from the stadium as in previous years, he'll be working on it at home. "Not only will Hershorn enjoy the comfort of working in his home, but he'll be working more efficiently than he would be if he were on-site," says Irby, who adds it will also be cheaper. "Remote editing is perfect for covering events like the Super Bowl, where speed is paramount." Hershon added: "The fundamental belief that editors need to be in a stadium is being put to rest. Having an editor sit in the comfort of their own office or home, working on desktop computers with large screens rather then on small laptops in noisy, crowded and anything but comfortable conditions in a stadium is proving to be a very positive move forward in photo editing." There's also a picture of Hershorn in his living room at the Poynter site, absolutely surrounded by computers.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New homeworker IT qualification

Accoring to James Murray from IT Week, a new IT certification scheme should benefit homeworkers. The scheme aims to "validate the skills of IT professionals and technicians that install and manage digital home and home office technologies". i.e. so that homeworkers would know they wouldn't be dealing with cowboys. According to Murray, the course would be taught across the UK and the exam would cover a variety of subjects such as networking, audio/video, telephony/VoIP, and security. It would also benefit IT professionals looking after remote workers.

Should both husband and wife work from home?

So, is it a good idea or a bad idea? Can you and your life partner share a garden office as well as the school run? Vishal Rao at lifehack is in no doubt about the risks and pressures it puts on a relationship, saying: "There is no thrill of taking a day off from work to do some of the household chores that have piled up or the excitement about saving time on a weekend to complete the shopping that we intended to do. Due to constant presence of the other person, we had probably got too used to being around."

However, Anne Zelenka at Web Worker Daily is less sure and even suggests that homeworking has widened her social circle. "I haven’t found that home-based web work is turning me into a recluse. Quite the contrary. For the most part, I find web workerhood and home-based work even better for expanding my professional and social network than my previous cubicle career. I have made deeper and more meaningful relationships working online than I ever did working in a traditional office setup."

A more robust rebuttal comes from the always readable Grant Griffiths at Home Office Lawyer. "BULL!!!!!" he thunders. "I have had my office in my home now for just over two years. I can honestly say my wife and I have both enjoyed it greatly."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Homeworking with Brother

Brother, who produce clever and compact - not to mention quite natty - all-in-one printers are very much targeting the homeworking market. For example, the MFC-660CN (pictured) can do colour faxing, colour printing, colour scanning and colour copying. If you're looking at buying a new printer, it's well worth having a browse around their site. They also have a large section on homeworking in general including the reassuring section 'Help Me'. I was interested to see from their site that they make sewing machines too.

A different kind of Ikea home office

The wonderfully-named ikea hacker has this interesting post on turning ikea's liljestad kitchen units into a home office. If you're thinking of having a go yourself their top tip is: "The trick with the base units is to attach the blocks but not the legs - if you put the legs/plinth on too then they become too tall. The blocks alone ensures the doors can open easily (clear of floor) and the worktop is the right height for a desk." Easy.

(Not) doing business in your bathrobe day

While I like the idea of the Doing Business in your Bathrobe Day which will be 'celebrated' on February 12, it's obviously not everybody's cup of tea. Donna Toothaker at Virtual Voice says she doesn't like the idea at all and in fact doesn't even like the term 'home office'. "The whole bathrobe thing bothers me, it makes me think of a bon-bon eating, couch potato instead of a busy, successful, professional business person. Where I run my business makes no difference to me. I’m more proud of the fact that I have a successful, established, well-known business than the fact that I run it from my home." I can't say that I've ever done any significant amount of work in my dressing gown or pyjamas, but I do like the idea of marking the fact that increasing numbers of people are now working from home in some way and while 'the homeworker in pyjamas' is a bit of a cliché, it's an arresting image which will be picked up by the mainstream media.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Home office fish

While pets and home offices don't usually mix terribly well, you could always consider an aquarium. The biUbe from Reef One looks particularly intriguing. It comes in black or silver and Reef One assures us that it would work well in a study/home office, as well as being easy to look after. It holds 35 litres of water and you can populate it with tropical or coldwater fish. Comes with a 5 stage internal filter, halogen light, ceramic media, air pump, plug top 12 volt transformer, water treatment, fish food and a full set of instructions. Fish extra.