Saturday, March 31, 2007

Local green garden office

According to my local newspaper, The St Albans Observer, environmental scientist Neil Johnston has designed and built an innovative garden office that maintains a comfortable temperature with the minimum of heating. Alex Lewis writes that Mr Johnston has built a prototype in the back garden of his house in Granby Avenue, Harpenden, and that it needs no electricity at all on clear winter days. "But unlike rival designs which maximise sun capture by large amounts of glass, his office, through carefully positioned south-facing windows, stays cool in summer," he writes. The walls, floor and ceiling have 10cm of sawdust for insulation, bolstered by two-inch air gaps under the floor.The office has been built with Douglas fir from a sawmill in Ayot Green and a special plasterboard made from recycled plastic. The roof is only 2.25 metres high, reducing the space that has to be heated.

Garden office feature in The Guardian

It's always welcome when the media write pieces on garden offices/sheds and The Guardian has a big piece on the front of its Work section in today's paper. Unfortunately, while it does fly the flag for shedworking (hooray) it concentrates at bizarre length on one shedowner's problems with BT rather than on the immense range of garden office options available and shed-related issues such as green roofs (boo). You can read the feature here , but sadly it's really rather disappointing.

Friday, March 30, 2007

National Shed Week - 10 Downing Street

Uncle Wilco from reports that his efforts to get a petition going on the 10 Downing Street web site have been rejected. This is what he was told:
" Hi, I'm sorry to inform you that your petition has been rejected. Your petition was classed as being in the following categories:
* Intended to be humorous, or has no point about government policy"
However the campaign continues. Please do sign up to the new petition at the new petition site here.

How to build a shed in five minutes...

Marvellous, but you might want to turn the sound down a bit...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ofsted - major public sector homeworking

John Carvel and Lucy Ward report in The Guardian about the enlargement of Ofsted's role to oversee children's social care and adult learning provision as well as schools. "Aside from the promised improved effectiveness and coordination of inspection, the super-inspectorate also breaks new ground as an employer," they write. "The merger will see a significant increase in homeworking, with the children's services inspection team - those formerly within CSCI - all abandoning their bases in big offices to work from home. Together with the childcare inspectors, who already are based at home, the change will make Ofsted one of the biggest users of homeworking in the public sector. For the inspectors there will be compensations: their package includes a computer and broadband connection, mobile phone, satellite navigation kits for inspection visits and subsidised gym membership."

Other people's desks

There's only one thing better than nosing around someone else's house, and that's nosing around their desk. And so a strong contender for the interweb's most addictive blog must be Linzie Hunter's marvellous On My Desk where artists, illustrators, designers and creative follk share the stuff on their desks. Devastatingly simple, you could spend a day on the site browsing around. Though difficult to pick any one posting, I do have a soft spot for illustrator, designer and author Bob Staake's entry since he also includes an outside view of his studio, pictured. Naturally, you should subscribe to the feed so you don't miss any new ones.

Homeworking women

If you are a female homeworker there are various sites online which are tailored to your gender. Among them is Home Office Women which "desires to inspire, encourage, empower, provide a healthy network and safe environment for ALL women to help and share with each other our life, experiences, successes, failures and anything close to your heart." There is a wide range of subjects in their daily posts as well as occasional carnivals.

WAHM, the online magazine for work-at-home moms (mothers) asks the pertinent questions: "Is every day "Take Your Children to Work" day? Are there Legos under your desk? Is your coffeepot the most-used appliance in your house? Then you're a WAHM, and this is your magazine!" Founder Cheryl Demas says the site is a source for home business information, work at home/work from home jobs, and all the support and advice a work-at-home mom (or dad, or anyone) could ask for."

Have a look too at the emomsathome blog/ by Wendy Piersall and Mom Gadget, a guide to gadgets, gizmos and working from home.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Home office furniture, design and even sheds

If you're looking to fit/refit your garden office, take a look at Simply Home Office's site here. The company is one of the few genuine home office specialists, explaining that: "Our business is all about home offices. Not kitchens, bathrooms or any other rooms - just offices within the home and garden." On the site there's a wide range of furniture, accessories and even garden offices. There's also a design service.

Magic Circle homeworking

In a piece in The Lawyer magazine about female retention in UK's 'Magic Circle' law firms, Freshfields partner Hugh Crisp says that female retention is top of their firm's agenda. "We have a number of flexible homeworking schemes already," he says. "We're looking at coaching more assistants around maternity, helping them keep in touch better when they're away."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Enterprise Nation podcast

The latest of Enterprise Nation's always excellent fortnightly podcasts is now available at their web site here. It not only includes work/life guru Tim Dwelly talking about planning permission for home offices but also comments from me about the delights of homeworking and skype from EN's new community channel which is starting to grow nicely.

How controversial can a shed be?

You'd be surprised. Pictured is Perryville-based Rocio Romero's Fish Camp,a wooden shed (though with an aluminium exterior) with deck which they describe as "essentially an adult's version of a tree-house, a place where one can comfortably connect with nature." However, when it was featured on Inhabitat, who described it as "perfect as an office, studio, guest house or backcountry cabin. It achieves a rather rare and totally clean fusion of modern and rustic", it got a lot of people's backs up as you can see if you follow the long list of comments below the main Inhabitat post...

Garden office flooring

Green up your shedworking lifestyle with some eco-friendly flooring. There's a useful list of suggestions at Treehugger which suggests:
* Bamboo
* Reclaimed wood
* Cork tiles
* Linoleum
* Mud (yes, mud)
If you haven't come across the New York-based Treehugger, it's well worth a browse around. They describe themselves as "dedicated to everything that has a modern aesthetic yet is environmentally responsible" which is a pretty wide remit and they do cover a lot of ground, usually very internationally.

Choosing a shed - Eco-pod (web site updated)

We've talked about crossover sheds before on the site, but here's an example of something which is more at the home end of the scale rather than the potting shed. The Eco Pod, which has been on show this week at the National Homebuilding and Renovating Show in Birmingham, can be used as a home but also as office space and is built using polyurethane panels in segments (80mm or 100mm thick). This shell is then bolted to a lightweight reinforced concrete floor with underfloor heating incorporated. As well as a 'normal' model with mains electrics, water, etc, there is an off-grid model which comes with wind turbine, solar and PV panels, a dry toilet and waste recycling facility. Eco-pods are available in two models but it's the Eco-Pod 4 which is probably best suited to shedworking, 4mx6.5m (including 1m high basement) and it comes with a kitchen, living room and bathroom with a bedroom on the first floor.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy Birthday

It's my birthday today so I am giving myself (pictured) the day off. Please feel free to leave congratulatory comments and I'll see you all again tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sculpture and shedworking

Creativity and shedworking go together so it's not surprising that many sculptors have also been shedworkers. One of the most famous was Henry Moore who had several shed studios, none of them very showy, at his home in Perry Green which is now open to the public. They were converted from former sheds, stables and in one case a village shop, but all had good light and were fit for purpose, including good views of sheep. According to the Henry Moore Foundation, his sheds were: " the heart of the creative process, a place Moore could come to think, to work, and to get away from the activities and distractions elsewhere..." For more information go to their web site here.

You don't have to be Henry Moore to have your own studio of course. Bathsheba Grossman describes herself as an artist exploring how math, science and sculpture meet and works in two 10x12 studios in California."You don't necessarily need a lot of room to make art," she says. "These spaces are the size of office cubicles." You can take a peek at her work - and her sheds (pictured) - here.

Underwriting homeworkers in the US

In the intriguingly-titled 'Underwriting in your Underpants: Life Outside the Home Office' Insurance Newsnet looks at underwriters working from home. Authors Chris Orestis and Eli Rowe take an indepth look at the topic and on the whole everybody gives it the thumbs up.

Government a bit unsure about homeworking

The always active Association of British Drivers has recently been petitioning the Prime Minister via his web site. Here's what they said:"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reduce the need for office-based workers to commute to work each day. Millions of unnecessary daily journeys to work could be eliminated through effective use of broadband technologies, virtual private networks, home working and also flexible working hours. Both employers and employees could be given tax incentives to reduce or eliminate commuting."

Here's the reply: "The Government is keen to encourage flexible working (working at the most suitable time and place for the task, rather than teleconferencing) but recognises that it is for companies and individuals to work out how best to deliver this. The Department for Transport, through the Smarter Choices programme, encourages employers to develop workplace travel plans, aimed at reducing car use for travel to work and for travel to business. A plan is typically a package of practical measures to encourage staff to choose alternatives to single-occupancy car use and to reduce the need to travel at all for their work, including teleconferencing and teleworking where appropriate.

"Although we are keen to encourage people in this way, we recognise that not all jobs are amenable to teleworking; personal service occupations such as restaurant waiting staff, for example. Direct incentives to those who are in a position to telework might therefore be an incentive to the favoured minority, given that personal service workers tend to be at the lower end of the earnings spectrum. Similarly not all homes are suitable for use as personal office space and, again it will tend to be those at the end of the earnings spectrum who live in the least suitable properties. Any encouragement of teleworking also needs to ensure that, in removing commuting journeys from peoples' lives, it does not contribute in the long term to urban sprawl, as people choose to live further from town or city centres. There are tax incentives to encourage employees to take up sustainable travel plans but these do not currently include teleworking."

ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries commented:"The government has previously used scaremongering claims about congestion increasing to justify road pricing, and insisted that doing nothing is not an option. Yet when an option other than road pricing is put forward, the government effectively rejects it. Their claimed desire to reduce congestion is clearly a sham.

"Pointing out that restaurant waiting staff can't work from home is just inane blathering. The fact remains that many people can work from home, and should be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, some employers still have a reluctance to allow staff to work from home despite the obvious cost savings in terms of office space, and the saving in commuting time providing better quality of life to their employees. It is thus necessary for the government to provide some incentive to both employers and employees to encourage teleworking.

If all office staff able to work from home were to do so just one day per week, congestion would be vastly reduced in all urban areas. Clearly the government does not want this to happen, as it would remove their argument for road pricing overnight."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Everybody say 'aye' for National Shed Week: updated

Wilco over at is really getting the bit between his teeth promoting National Shed Week. He's now got up an online petition for us all to make our voices heard and I would urge every visitor to this site to pop along to the online petition site here and leave an encouraging comment.

Choosing a shed (US) - PowerHouse

Massachusetts-based Power House is one of the new breed of builders which combines modular and green goals. Although focused on the housing market, they also have a PowerPod model which arrives by lorry and is suitable as a home office. It is solar-equipped, sits on short legs and among possible add-ons are composting toilets.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Timber cladding in Scotland

If you're interested in timber cladding, take a look at this piece of research from the Scottish Excecutive. It's a study outlining the development of timber cladding in Scotland, describes timber clad buildings in Scotland, and provides practical information on the use of timber cladding in Scotland. As well as lots of useful information (Western red cedar should be avoided in situations where there is a risk of impact damage or vandalism) there are some great pictures, particularly in the case studies section. Here's what they have to say about garden office sheds:
"Poorly-designed, or maintained, temporary buildings such as stables, garden sheds and garages have tarnished the reputation of timber cladding. Design is driven by large DIY merchants and some specialist suppliers and, in this price-sensitive market, ongoing maintenance is virtually unheard of. In this sector better-designed timber-clad buildings are exceptionally seen and it may be that a niche market can be created. The recent growth of garden office structures are an example of this type of more up-market temporary building. European whitewood is the most common cladding timber, with western red cedar being used for more up-market structures."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Choosing a shed – Zen Cabins

Sedburgh-based Zen Cabins market themselves as providing 'Ecological Garden Offices and Studios' and indeed there is a strong touchy-feely element on the site (such as the many inspiring quotes scattered around) not normally associated with garden office suppliers. There are three standard models but also a bespoke service. Nice touches include adjustable steel shoe foundations bearing on specially designed pads and a 175mm deep curved roof clad in zinc coated aluminium with standing seams. The roof is also fitted with a foil layer to reflect solar gain and keep the building cool in summer. All timber used is from FSC approved sustainable sources and indeed the cabins are designed to be energy efficient, use non-toxic and sustainable materials and be 100% recyclable. Interesting options include heat and power supply via wind turbine, solar panels and wood-burning stove and the 'Future developments' section sounds very tempting since it includes the possibility of a glazed atrium, a jacuzzi and a mezzanine incorporating a sleeping platform.

How hard do you homework?

A nice piece in Forbes about the importance of not working too hard just because you're working from home. On the same page there's also a nice little slideshow, something which seems to be all the rage on US sites at the moment but entirely absent from UK ones.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Dean Joseph Urbano is a brave shedworker. Like many wise folk, he has opted for a homeworking life in a shed and his site has some nice photos and video of the arrangement. But he has also gone one step further and installed a web cam in his shed so we can see him at work. "The webcam is a window into my office," he writes. "In fact it is the only means of seeing into this room without actually stepping inside. It is provided as a source of entertainment only. All too often nothing exciting is happening but there are those few occasions where I will actually move." Click here to watch the action but you need to time your viewing as Dean lives in Kentucky.

Bunn one-cup coffee maker

We've mentioned suitable shedworking coffeemakers before here but here's a new one which caught the eye, the Bunn My Café Single-Serve. Bunn describe it as a "commercial grade pod brewer" which brews in about 30 seconds, has a removable easy-fill reservoir which holds exactly 46oz of water and a patented sprayhead design to improve coffee flavour extraction. As well as nine (count 'em) brew settings, it also makes tea thanks to its pulse brew steeping action. As you'd expect, it's all dishwasher-friendly and, best of all, high altitude models are available.

Southerners want studies

According to Smartnewhomes, having a study is more important to southerners than northerners. David Bexon, Managing Director of said: “The emergence of a study is a trend that looks set to continue with new homes in the south. In fact, I would expect many new homes of the future to incorporate up to two studies to meet the changing needs of working parents.”

Digital house

Many homeworkers lead rather digital lives and the day of the digitally-built home is coming closer. On display in London at the moment is an exhibition at the Architecture Foundation's Yard gallery called Making The Digital House, essentially a display of a prototype built in cross-section so all the cleverness can be appreciated properly. Built by Bell Travers Willson the idea is to provide a cheap, eco-friendly but sturdy pre-fab structure. According to the foundation: "The Digital House is produced using a detailed 3D computer model that contains all of the construction elements including every wall and screw hole which are pre-determined before the construction. This information is transferred to a CNC Router (Computer Numerical Control) which rapidly cuts out elements in engineered timber. These are assembled into lightweight hollow cassettes like big bricks of Lego, which can be filled with recycled newspaper to achieve a high level of insulation and air tightness." You can read more about it at their web sitehere and lots more pictures over at the always fascinating Treehugger.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Laptop cases

When you're away from the garden office shed, you need something nice to carry your portable electronic goodies around in. And Built has several nice solutions ('Solving problems, with style' is their mantra). First is the neoprene Electronic Pocket which comes in three sizes and which is just perfect for your Blackberry or mobile. Attach them to a belt or bag and you can also whack them in the washing machine if you drop them in the mud. Then there's the gorgeous Laptop Portfolio Case made from the same stuff that stops scubadivers ripping themselves open on coral and fits 15" laptops (includes shoulder strap). Finally, the Laptop Sleeve, again neoprene and again very handy. With Shark Gill Grips on the sides, you won't drop it. Available in three sizes.

Friday, March 16, 2007

National Shed Day/Week

Wilco at shedblog - the blog of has come up with the great idea of running a National Shed Day or Week. All that remains now is to decide when to celebrate the event. The birthday of a famous shedowner (Mahler, Dahl, Pullman) perhaps? Or the anniversary of a milestone in shed construction? Any ideas?

Virtual villages

The Future Foundation has just released the latest chapter in its ongoing Local Life report (commissioned by Brando for Somerfield), this time looking at various types of modern neighbourhoods. Although I was interested in what they had to say about young fogeys and bricklayers' wives (guess which category is the neatest fit for me), there is also a look at what they describe as 'virtual villages'.

The report points out that in 2001, fewer than half (49%) of people in rural or country areas had access to the internet. By 2006 this had risen to 63%.By comparison, urban areas have seen slower growth: in 2001 63% of people in city or metropolitan areas had access to the internet. Moreover says the report, net users in rural areas are now using the internet more regularly than their urban counterparts, and this is something new. In 2001, 34% of internet users in rural/country areas used it everyday or nearly everyday. By 2006 this had risen to 49%. In 2001 39% of internet users in cities used the internet everyday or nearly everyday. By 2006 this had risen to 46%.

The main Virtual Village areas are largely along the M3 and M4, the ‘silicon corridor’ of South-Central England, a ‘digital triangle’, of rural areas lying between London, Bristol and Southampton. The Top 10 'Virtual Villages' areas are named as:
South Cambridgeshire
Aylesbury Vale
South Oxfordshire
West Berkshire
Vale of White Horse
South Northamptonshire
West Oxfordshire

Building a garden office with straw

Just as gardens and grass go together, so do garden office sheds and straw. There are now increasing numbers of smallbuild examples of this popular building material including this Straw Bale Office designed by Gaia Architects in Perthshire. It's a 30 square metre garden office with a curved glulam roof on eight poles braced with stainless steel shipping fixings. The project has been developed using almost entirely local, natural and reclaimed materials, such as untreated sheeps wool insulation, straw bales for the walls covered in lime harling and limewash, sharpened hazel twigs, clay-straw mix filling, reclaimed douglas fir floor boards, woodwool and a reused gas pipe as a window.

The Strawdio is a music studio built of straw in the south west of England. Owner Piers Partridge has documented the build in an excellent online journal on the site and also included detailed costings and plans. The foundations are concrete block and natural stone on compressed scalping with a reclaimed pine board floor and underfloor insulation provided by straw bales sawn in half and wedged between the joists. Straw bale walls are finished with three coats of lime plaster inside and out and the whole thing is 6 bales high at the front, 7 at the back.

Another great example of a straw project from start to finish is chronicled at the
Build it with bales blog where a one bedroom straw cabin has been built on a park home chassis in East Yorkshire. It has renewable electricity, solar hot water and an environmentally friendly toilet system and its makers believe it to be the first mobile home in the world made from straw. You can even book holiday accommodation here. More details on the site.

If you'd like to find out more about building with straw try Straw Bale Futures or the Strawbale Building Co and of course the UK Strawbale Building Association.

Choosing a shed (US) - Garden Solutions

Woodinville-based Garden Solutions (who assemble their garden building on any site in western Washington State unless you want to order pre-fabricated kit)have been making garden structures for more than 20 years. They have several models with interesting optional features such as cupolas, sliding glass doors, Growshed windows and weathervanes. The Hip Roof is a particularly pleasing model but I also like the lean-to feel of the Forester. All models come with Stanley Lifespan hinges, Tyvex Vapor barrier guards against rust and mildew, 3/4" moisture-resistant plywood flooring, 5/8" siding to resist damage, 20-year composition roof or cedar shakes and rot-resistant pressurized floor skids. There is an excellent gallery of garden office pictures on the site.

Homeworking lawyers

The move towards more lawyers working from home (which would make life interesting for production of this blog and The Shed magazine) comes a step closer as reported in The Lawyer. According to the article, Vodafone UK is beefing up its flexible working programme for in-house lawyers to deal with a talent shortage. This means that the legal department will be able to work in London, Newbury (where the company is based) or from home. "In the future it will give us the benefit of having a wider pool of people from which to recruit. We realised that this would enable us to recruit good-quality lawyers," UK legal director Jonathan McCoy told The Lawyer which says that nine of the team's 18 lawyers are expected to take up the hotdesking arrangement,

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Solar powered shed - case study

Toby from Better Generation writes to say that they have a new case study of a large South London shed here following a recent installation of a lighting setup in south London. There's a good explanation at the site of how they did it (with pictures) He adds that he's happy to answer questions about suitability for your setups.

Choosing a shed (US) - Cabana Village

Wilmington-based Cabana Village's sheds are made out of the always popular Western red cedar and shipped largely pre-fabricated for you to assemble. So what's included is basically the floor (all kits come with a plywood floor built on a 2x4 sub-structure and supported by 2x6 pressure treated runners), walls, windows, doors, cupolas, etc, plus assembly instructions - what's not includedis shingles, foundation and installation. There's an optional insulation package. There's also a great little 'drag and drop' design tool so that you can customise your shed design online - say, add a cupola or take away a flowerbox - and price it up as you go. You don't need to download anything.

Mums want to work at home, says survey

A new poll from suggests that, given the choice, a whopping 87% of mothers would rather work at home than in an office. Gillian Nissim, founder of, said “These statistics are probably not surprising since home-based jobs can provide mothers with the kind flexibility they’re looking for, for example, having more choice about the hours they work or having more flexibility at pressure points in the day such as school drop-off and pick up time. But what is particularly interesting is the variety of home-working positions that are becoming available to professionals who wish to work from home. Technology such as broadband and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Phone) is now making home-working a truly viable option for both jobseekers, and employers. “ 33% of mums registered on the site say they would ideally work between 15-20 hours a week, 24% want to work between 20 – 25 hours a week and 18% want to work between 25- 35 hours a week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Solar powered garden office

If you're thinking of using solar power in your shed, you should certainly take a look at this article at Better Generation called Solar Power for your Shed. "The basic idea is that a small solar photo voltaic panel is mounted somewhere on the shed to maximise the amount of solar energy falling on it (usually on the roof)," they write. "This is then connected up to a standard 12v battery (such as one from a car) so that it will trickle-charge up the battery during daylight hours."

Celebrity Sheds - part II

Following the first popular Celebrity Sheds post here is a second helping, focusing on writers:
* Louis de Bernières, author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin who actually had the first draft of a novel pinched from his shed
* Charles Dickens, whose enormous Swiss chalet 'shed' where he wrote Edwin Drood and others, can be visited at the gardens of the former Charles Dickens Centre in Rochester
* Jilly Cooper, who writes in a gazebo at the bottom of her garden
* Jeanette Winterson whose shed you can read about here

And finally one who isn't a fan as reported in the Daily Telegraph
* Robert Harris, who says "I am anti-sheddist. I couldn't work anywhere cold and nasty. I like the background noise of life going on."

Choosing a shed (US) - Bayhorse

Red Hook-based Bayhorse specialises in quality Amish built woodcraft, including garden office-type sheds and was set up by Jean and Charlie Hamilton in 1989. Pictured is the Quaker model with optional shutters and flower box, but there is a huge display at their 5 acre site of other models. All sheds are 16" on centre with 2x4 construction using 25 year old shingles and a 35 year pressure treated foundation. The links page is very Amish heavy but there is a nice picture gallery (just turn down the sound on your computer...).


I love bonfires, loved helping my parents build and burn them as a child and the smell of them now always makes me smile. Except of course when I'm working in the shed and my next door neighbour-but-one has a very big one on the go with more smoke than seems to me, sitting in this wooden construction surrounded by books, strictly necessary. And Beltane is coming up soon...

Homeworkers don't buy office furniture

According to a press release from bespoke furniture specialists Hammonds, despite the growth in home offices, 75% of people who work from home have never bought home office furniture. Incidentally, Hammonds has added two new finishes to its Elan home office range of products, using a white finish and incorporating aluminium. Lorraine Price, Marketing Services Manager commented, “On going product development is at the core of the Hammonds philosophy, and with the home office market booming and the use of the home office everyday now commonplace, it is important that we keep on top of emerging trends to meet customer demands. With two new colour choices available, Elan can now offer variety in terms of design, whilst still retaining the practical storage elements which can help people create the perfect working environment.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New survey backs homeworking vs commuting

Most people want to homework, according to a new survy from snappily-titled collaborative communications solutions experts Polycom. According to the YouGov commissioned research which polled 1,200 UK office workers, 52% of respondents felt they would be happier in their jobs if they could spend less time travelling to work and 57% say they are less productive as a result of travelling for business. “Our study shows commuting takes longer and is more stressful than it was five years ago and people are less happy with their jobs as a result,” said Steve Leyland, Managing Director for EMEA, Polycom. “On top of a continued rise in public transport and fuel costs, the UK’s workers are feeling more pressure in their daily lives. Polycom believes IT directors, managers and other decision makers can play a valuable role in examining cost effective ways to enable more flexible working practices. By taking positive steps, such as providing audio and video conferencing and collaboration technologies that will allow employees to work remotely or from home, businesses can increase employee productivity while improving job satisfaction.”

Big Brother bosses

Bosses are now using GPS technology to keep an eye on their homeworkers, according to this article in Computer Weekly. Whether it's to improve efficiency for the company or just to allay fears about bunking off is a moot point.

Choosing a shed (US) - Michael Graves Pavilions UPDATED

(Sadly, Lindal are no longer making Michael Graves Pavilions - 12/10/07)

Seattle-based Lindal Cedar Homes claims to be the world's largest manufacturer of quality custom cedar homes (they even have their own magazine, Cedar Living) but also provide conservatories, sunrooms and a garden office product called Michael Graves Pavilions. The two best models for homeworking are the Heathcote (pictured) and the Brighton which has a glasswalled option. There's also an online design programme which you can use to customise your ideal home office. The site has plenty of other useful information about building materials and a FAQ section which also answers any questions you might have about having a hot tub. Their dealers in England are Harding Homes and in Scotland Alba Cedar Homes

Monday, March 12, 2007

Choosing A U.S. Shed Week

Feeling a bit left out of all these special homeworking weeks, we've decided that this week will be Choosing a U.S. Shed Week. To get things started, have a look at this excellent piece by Sean O'Neill in Kiplinger magazine called Backyard Getaways. "We don't mean bland boxes that could double as lawn-mower garages," he says. "These upscale sheds offer well-sealed walls, double-pane windows and interiors that can look like your living room." He takes a look at various kinds of shedbuilds and there's an excellent slideshow of 10 'incredible backyard sheds'. Pictured is a Modern Cabana which you can read about here.

Procter & Gamble win award for homeworking

Computer Weekly reports on the winners in the Best Places to Work in IT Awards 2007 including Procter & Gamble winner of the Manufacturing and engineering category. "Procter & Gamble’s IT department has a strong focus on flexible working and homeworking. IT staff have access to a suite of flexible work arrangements, including sabbaticals, reduced work schedules and family leave. Regular community events ensure that home and office workers reconnect to strengthen friendships and working relationships," it says. I particularly like the sound of their monthly cake club where "people take time out to relax and joke about the merits of people’s baking talents, as they eat cakes baked by their peers."


Homeshoring is the new offshoring, according to Chris Partridge in The Observer who writes that not only do call centres seem to be coming back from outside the UK, but that calls are now increasingly being taken by homeworkers which he says means that: "it has the potential to provide work for millions of people currently excluded from employment, such as parents, carers and the disabled...Single parents find this particularly liberating - one of the criticisms of conventional call centre work is that the wages barely cover child care and travel costs.Homeshoring has many attractions for employers as well. The high fixed costs of a call centre are eliminated, and many of the new breed of home workers are extremely well qualified." You can read more about homeshoring
in Business Week.

Coworking in the UK

For those of you interested in the idea of coworking (covered briefly here last week here) there is an interesting Coworking Community Blog which describes coworking as "a movement to create a community of cafe-like collaboration spaces for developers, writers and independents". Increasingly popular in the US, it still hasn't really sprung to life here in the UK though there are some coworking spots including (in London) The Hub, which describes itself as an incubator for social innovation offering "all the tools and trimmings needed to cultivate an idea, launch a project, host a meeting and run a business", and Studio 1 Offices who provide "a workspace for freelancers and small businesses who prefer not to work from home, wanting all the practical and social advantages of a business centre." Have a look too at the Chaosncoffee blog which is trying to get coworking events off the ground.

Not everybody loves Bedouinworkers

We've talked about 'going bedouin' on the site before, particularly about coffee houses here and pubs here as 'Third Place' working points. And among recent articles on the subject is this one at the San Francisco Chronicle, Where Neo-Nomads' ideas percolate.

But perhaps we're going to start seeing a backlash. Not everybody thinks coffeeworking is such a great idea: in an article in another piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, Coffee klatch, one of the comments was this: "How about some perspective from other customers who are sick of folks on laptops turning cafes into work cubicles? I go out to coffee to GET AWAY FROM WORK. I don't want to have to listen you you jabber on about some dumb-ass work plan on your cell at the top of your lungs while i'm trying to relax. And don't get me started on the hours laptoppers are spending hogging the couches and tables. If you are going to telecommmute, have the decency to do so from the privacy of your own home. Don't turn relaxing cafes into your office, cheapskates."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Shedworking in pictures

If you've always wanted to see all the pictures on this site - and there are some crackers - in one fell swoop you can now do it by either clicking at the Picasaweb site here or by going to the link on the lefthand side.

Intellectual Property

The British Library is using this marvellous image to promote its Business and IP Centre. This is what it says on an important subject which SMEs often overlook."Intellectual property, or IP, lets people ‘own’ their ideas in the same way they can own, protect, sell or rent other kinds of property. While IP can be a complex subject, it touches on many parts of modern life – such as downloading music from the web – and it can be very important to small businesses and entrepreneurs. If you have an idea or an invention that you think could ‘sell’ or ‘hire out’, or if you are in the business of being creative, you need to understand IP. Someone might have ‘got there first’. If not, you need to take steps to protect and make the most of your property." You can find out lots more at their site here. Thanks to Felix Bennett for the shed alert.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership

I posted about the intriguing joint project between Apropos and the University of Salford earlier this week and the helpful Dr. Tuba Kocaturk Programme Coordinator, MSc in Digital Design, at Salford has told me a little more about the scheme."Any company with an interesting project in mind but not quite sure how to do it and if they need academic knowledge/support, may contact the KTP section (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) at our university. If the project is interesting and there are academics who are willing to join the project team, then we write a grant proposal together. The project is partly funded by the government, and partly by the company. So as the title implies, it is actually a true "knowledge transfer partnership" between the academy and the industry.

"I think the most interesting part of our new KTP project, for me, as an academic, is the challenge we face to come up with a modular garden office solution - as a new product line - and at the same time to try to develop new design methodologies which would allow us to produce customizable design solutions that could adjust to different contextual situations and interdisciplinary design constraints. We are also going to test how parametric design tools could help us achieve this."

The project has a three-year lifespan and I'll post updates here about its progress. For more information about the KTP scheme at Salford, click here.

Choosing a shed - Bartholomew

It seems I'm eating my words/hat about conservatory specialists and garden offices this week. West Sussex-based Bartholomew Conservatories have this impressive bespoke modular building constructed of oak rings which you can customise depending on the size of the building you want. It can be freestanding (one of the defining characteristics of a garden office) or added onto your house or even roof terrace, a nice idea. All their hardwood frames (usually Tulip and Utile) and glass are designed and manufactured at their own studios and workshops on site. And as you'd expect all double-glazed units incorporate safety glass and conform with BS 6262 and the latest Document L Regulations. I also like the antisun solar control glass feature which can be incorporated to reduce heat gain and glare.

Stingy startups

The trouble with the big bubble burst, as any fule kno, was that lots of awful ideas were backed by millions of idiotic pounds. This time round things are going to be a bit different.The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting story 'Dot.Com on the cheap: Startups shun forebears' excesses, and some workers even bring their own chairs' by Jessica Guynn. "Gone are the Herman Miller Aeron desk chairs and the other technocrat excesses of the late 1990s when dot-coms burned through money and hype, throwing lavish launch parties, staffing up quickly and spending millions on Super Bowl ads," she writes. "Emerging in their stead is a post-crash generation of stingy startups using ingenuity to minimize the cost of turning raw ideas into viable businesses." And in The Guardian, the always readable Victor Keegan has a piece 'This time, the startup boom is no bubble'. He writes: "The scene is a Starbucks in Regent Street, London, last week. Two 23-year-old women from Trinity College, Dublin, are doing a five-minute pitch from a laptop to a couple of serious venture capitalists (VCs). It is the cappuccino version of TV programmes such as Dragons' Den and it is telling us a lot about the vitality of the new internet startup boom in the UK. I have no idea whether the site they have created ( will be a winner, but it was nifty enough to hold the attention of the VCs. One of them asked how much it had cost so far. The reply was "A hundred". I think theVCs thought they meant £100,000 until another question revealed it was £100, and the total funds being sought a mere £2,000 - small enough to be from the back pockets of VCs who normally think in millions. Both pieces are well worth reading and underline what we all know to be true that essentially small is not only good, it's also sensible.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Crossover sheds - Walden and Futureshed

Most garden offices also carry more than a whiff of the potting shed about them (paint pots and seedlings are as much in evidence in mine as modems and laptops). But some are whiffier than others. The Walden for example, which is made from spruce and larch and named after Henry David Thoreau's famous walk in the wild. Designed by Nils Holger Moormann it has plenty of storage space for gardening tools, firewood, birdhouse and even a 'swinging cauldron' (I've always wanted one of those), but there's also plenty of room inside the cabin structure and even an upper level.

More shed than garden office, but also a look to the future, is the aptly-named FutureShed from the eco-friendly designers Serge de Gheldere and Francis Vanhoonacker of Futureproof/ed. Not only is the wood toxin-free and earth-friendly, but the designers say they have: "aimed for a striking but serene form so that you won’t want to hide this shed in the back of your yard." Which means an interesting translucent roof structure, sliding doors and a general feeling of space. There are lots of interesting photos and a video on the site so you can nose around.

Choosing a shed - Apropos

There's an obvious difference between garden office 'sheds' and conservatories which is why the suppliers list in the lefthand column doesn't include any conservatory specialists. However, Apropos Tectonic , which I mentioned very briefly yesterday, may change my mind. As well as offering the usual range of glasshouses, conservatories and kitchen extensions, they also have a garden office in their portfolio (pictured). It's quite a different kind of look to most garden offices since Apropos are glass and aluminium specialists, which means the buildings are still tough but very light too.

It's a very informative site, especially if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of construction, but with handy explanations for the bodgers amongst us. So for example, on thermal break and efficiency, they say: "Until mid 2005 the apropos suite (then mk2) was thermally broken using the “pouring and de-bridging” method. However the ever more rigorous requirements for thermal efficiency coupled with our desire to retain the finest sight lines possible led to us switching to “rolled thermal break” technology. This involves the joining of two parent aluminium extrusions by the mechanical insertion of extruded polyamide strips in order to form a single complete thermally broken assembly."

Then add: "The key advantages are increased energy efficiency, increased thermal efficiency, environmentally cleaner."

Increasing homeworking in North East predicted

As reported in, a study by Future Matters suggests that 75% of workers expect new technology to make home working more common. Future Matters Project Director Phil Shakeshaft said: “The impact of improving communication technologies and the preference for a more even work-life balance are probably driving this finding. Employees need to think about how this will impact their businesses. Will they need smaller premises? How will they manage productivity in a distributed environment?" He estimates that in ten years’ time as many as one in five of North Easterners could be based at home.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Organise Your Home Office Day

There's a non-stop funfilled fiesta of homeworking-themed days at the moment, what with National Working from Home Day, National Work Life Balance Day and now Organise Your Home Office Day, the brainchild of Avery Dennison Office Products. As their press release puts it: "As an increasing number of people work from home, they are switching on to the enormous space-saving benefits of burning important documents to DVDs in a bid to achieve a clutter-free work and home environment. Avery Dennison Office Products is supporting ‘Organise Your Home Office Day’ to help people do just that, and to warn PC users against the potential hazards of not labeling disks safely." The big day is March 13.

Garden Office development job

The University of Salford via their School of Built Environment and bespoke glass/aluminium architectural design specialists Apropos Tectonic are advertising an interesting post, Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate to help "develop a Garden Office solution that has the simplicity, convenience and low maintenance of the modern, modular solutions, combined with sophisticated styling and aesthetic appeal of traditional products." The job spec blurb continues: "Supported by the Managing Director, the Associate will lead in improving current product design by investigating new materials, methods and technologies which will enable Apropos Tectonic to develop an affordable, low maintenance product that combines functionality with aesthetic appeal. The impact of the KTP will help the company establish themselves as market leader in the Garden Office industry within the next 3 years. The successful applicant will register for a higher degree and will also complete an NVQ in Management." Market leader in 3 years. Now there's ambition for you. For more details, click here.

Homeworking and communities

One of the advantages in homeworking is that it allows you to play a greater part in your local community, and indeed help keep that community alive. It's a topic covered here before (see Anna Minton's article here) and the Guardian newspaper today has an interesting piece about the inhabitants of Hesket Newmarket who have set up various co-operatives to protect key local services including a post office, pub/brewery and shop which is also a local meeting place. Rachel Pugh writes: "The pub is now a venue for philosophy classes, a library, an internet cafe, and provides a cashback scheme. If the shop cooperative is successful, it will lease the business to someone who will focus on stocking local produce."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

SmallBizPod - homeworking podcast

Homeworker Andy Bellinger produces a very interesting weekly podcast at SmallBizPod, sponsored by Bibby Financial Services. He describes it as the UK's first small business podcast with interviews and practical advice for small business, startups and entrepreneurs. This week's cast, number 41, is particularly interesting for homeworkers as it looks at the whole issue of homeworking (technology, loneliness, productivity, etc) and includes an interview with Enterprise Nation's Emma Jones, and from the US, Wendy Piersall of eMoms at Home and Ponn Sabra of Empower Women Now. Well worth a listen and there's also an interesting blog at the site.

Teleworking in the USA

As reported in various bits of the media including here at Management Issues, the new WorldatWork's Telework Trendlines report suggests nearly 29 million Americans are now working remotely at least one day per month while bosses are increasingly confident that homeworking works. On the down side, the report also claims that teleworkers are four times more likely to work on holiday than 'traditional' workers. The report's authors suggest that by 2010 100 million people in the US will be teleworking.

Will mileage charging increase homeworking numbers?

That's certainly the opinion of UK MD of Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Steve Kendall-Smith, who is calling on the government to provide tax breaks for firms that adopt flexible working (more details here). Kendall-Smith says: “Encouraging more companies to adopt mobile and home working will help to ease congestion and reduce environmental damage. Businesses are much more likely to do that if they are given a positive incentive. By giving companies that invest in mobile technology a tax break, the government can cut the number of people travelling on the UK’s roads every day, reduce carbon emissions and encourage the further use of technology by businesses and in the home. If there is no positive incentive to stop using their cars, business people will simply feel shackled and that will not be good for the UK economy. Providing tax incentives for businesses that introduce home working and make use of video-conferencing and remote collaboration systems would also be a great way of overcoming this and will benefit the economy.”

Matt Whip though is not so sure. At hit ITRP blog he suggests that Flexible working has never looked more remote, largely because he believes 'bosses' are still suspicious of what their staff are up to. I'm sure that's still the case in some companies, but the statistics seem to suggest that attitudes are changing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

What it's all about

At the risk of terrible navelgazing, it's always interesting to see how people describe this blog. My favourite so far is this pithy description by Sean Johnson at his site intentionally. "All things related to working from home, or in a spare room, or outside, or under a bridge, or wherever. Lots of interesting stuff."


As reported in The Sunday Times and the Daily Record, 15-year-old Ryan Dunlop has turned his dad's garden shed into a rather successful online radion station Hitz Radio. With the help of volunteers, he presents in the morning before school and in the afternoon after school for the drivetime crowd and is doing very well both financially and in terms of viewing figures. Thanks to Emma at Enterprise Nation for alerting me to this.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sheds as art

The authoritative monograph on sheds as art has still to be written. Of course there are many sheds, huts and cabins featured in works of art. An excellent collection for example of haysheds (such as the one pictured left by Peter Paul Reubens) can be found at the remarkable Hay in Art database part of a spectacularly extensive blog all about hay put together by Alan Ritch.

However it tends to be sheds as installation artworks that stick in the memory. For example John Frankland's Untitled (Shed) from 1994 (pictured left) which is currently on display at York Art Gallery. My former colleague at the York Evening Press Charles Hutchinson described it like this: "It inverts everything we traditionally associated with the common or garden shed. Instead of being rough, muddy, humble and full of yesterday's failed cuttings and string, it is coated in laminated polythene, as perfect and shiny as American models' teeth and just as empty."

An example of shed as public art is LightShed by Liz Magor in Vancouver (pictured right). Gordon Price describes it at his blog as a "homage to the boatsheds that used to line the banks of Coal Harbour when all this land was railyards and industry. She made a half-scale replica, impressed each board in sand, cast them in aluminum (even down to the crust of shells), painted them silver and then re-assembled the piece, along with lighting that makes it glow at night. It makes a for a wonderful contrast with all the slick glass towers that provide the post-industrial backdrop."

More recently, shedboatshed (pictured below) by Simon Starling famously won the Turner Prize and you can read more about it at the Tate Museum's web site here. Starling says he received a wonderful poem about his shed - which he found on the banks of the Rhine, took apart, turned into a boat which he sailed to Basle where he reassembled it as a shed - from someone in St Albans, but it wasn't me.

Other famous artists have found success with sheds too. For Cornelia Parker's Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View she blew up a garden shed (pictured below). As she explains on the Tate's web site: "From seeing explosions on the news and all the time in films you sort of think you know what they are, but really your firsthand knowledge of it is very limited. I realised I'd never walked through the detritus of a bombed-out building."

Unsurprisingly given her architectural bent, Rachel Whitread has also taken garden buildings as inspiration, in her case for Negative Shed, pictured below. At Martian FM she comments: "The fuss surrounding my piece called House, for which I had cast a real house and then as it were turned it inside out, was sometimes distressing, though the money wasn't bad. Here I return to the notion of 'anti-space' and oppositeness with a work that questions all those preconceptions about planar integrity and single-storey living. In order to negativise the building it is necessary to create an ionised 'bubble' around the object and then polarise all the individual molecules. It is very time-consuming and quite costly, which means it's definitely Art.

Maybe the most famous shedloving artist is Tracy Emin. Sadly, her The Last Thing I Said To You Is Don't Leave Me - a blue Whitstable beach hut (pictured below) which she bought and reassembled with photographs of herself taken inside the hut - burnt down in the big Britart fire.

Emin also took part in The Other Flower Show put on in 2004 at the Victoria and Albert Museum and a fitting finale to the post since it brought together eight contemporary artists and designers who all designed a garden shed. All their work is online at the site - including Tord Boontje's chill-out den on stilts pictured below - and it's well worth taking a look. As the V&A put it: "There is something quintessentially English about a garden shed. It implies far more than simple garden storage: shelter at a rainy garden party, an enthusiast's workshop, a place for retreat, or perhaps for something more untoward..."

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hammonds home offices

Leicestershire-based Hammonds is a third generation family business which specialises in fitted rooms, including home offices. The home office section of their attractive web site has a range of examples of their tailormade products from fairly straightforward under the stairs contemporary designs to a more Gentleman's Study kind of thing.

Software for homeworkers

A goodish majority of people working from home will do so with a computer. There is a bewildering choice of software out there so it's always handy to have expert suggestions. San Sharma at Enterprise Nation has this useful roundup of free home office software and Alex Iskold has a longer post at Read/Write Web looking at a very wide range of tools which, as he puts it, makes virtual companies possible. As well as his Top Tip in each section (Communication Tools, Presentation, Project Management, etc) he also usefully suggests possible alternatives.

Convenient conveniences

When you're working away from the home or garden office/shed in a coffee shop (or pub) what matters most in your choice of location? To Sean Johnson, a key factor are the lavatory/bathroom/washroom/restroom/etc facilities. In an interesting post at his intentionally blog called Why Bathrooms Matter he writes: "The quality of restrooms represents a HUGE factor in my decision making process. In New York I was known to walk 40 blocks if necessary to find a place with a clean restroom. When getting settled in Chicago I visited every coffee shop in a three mile radius, keeping a mental checklist of places with nice johns and places that make portables look inviting...An unkempt lavatory makes my skin crawl. I need to feel comfortable during my workday, and I can’t handle feeling dirtier leaving the bathroom than I was going in."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

easyjet, easycar and now easyoffice

Yes, it's true. Soon you'll be able to easywork as well as easyfly and easygotothecinema. According to the new and slightly unpopulated easyoffice web site great value office space to rent will be coming soon to the heart of London i.e. Kensington. "easyOffice will offer flexible and affordable office space to rent by the room, short or long term, allowing you to match the space you rent with the demands of your business." Now, how about

Choosing a shed - using an architect

Although some garden office suppliers do provide a made-to-measure service, if you've got the money then you could also think about using an architect, especially if you're after something a little special. You can get a list of local architects from Architect Search or Royal Institute of British Architects. Two examples of what can be done are pictured. The more traditional shed, a cabin for a north London writer who wanted a place to work surrounded by nature, was designed by Sarah Wigglesworth. Designed to maximise light, it has various spots for sitting, thinking, writing and reading and also - which is going on my wishlist - a daybed built high into the back wall. It also has a small kitchen and a grass roof.

Or there's the more futuristic example, the Garden Studio at Odstock Manor in Wiltshire by Klaentschi & Klaentschi. This is how they describe it. "A retreat to work and contemplate the garden geometry. Right next to the Studio stands an ancient STONE which is a marker on the LINE: Stonehenge, Old Sarum, The Cathedral, Odstock and on to Clearbury Ring. The STUDIO like the STONE is a monolith speaking the language of form just like the globes of the topiary YEWS each all one material. The Studio is a rusting steel monolith with the side facing the causeway - the LINE is being constantly polished by the passing traffic, real or imagined. The drama of opening the super large door is equalled by the surprise of the birch plywood interior. There is sunlight streaming down from the gods. A sensual black walnut undulating desk resides flush with the long low window and just when you are frustrated at not being able to see out you comply with the perfectly designed seat and there the splendid garden panoramic view is presented to you. The workmanship and in particular the carefully designed objects within the room - stainless steel box providing a shower toilet, the tea sink and storage units are exquisitely made."