Thursday, May 31, 2007

Whisky and sheds

This just in from an international whisky brand featured elsewhere on this site earlier in the month...

"Is your shed an inspiration? Is it unusual or extraordinary? Is it a place you enjoy – a space for a hobby, work or entertainment? If so, we want to hear from you. An international whisky brand is looking for interesting sheds and their owners to take part in a UK campaign highlighting the potential of the shed. If you’re aged 18 or over, email pictures and a brief description of your unique space to"

We get requests from lots of media folk interested in sheds, but these people seem to be genuinely keen to do something and are planning something big later in the year...

For sale - Tudor gem with garden office

The Shropshire Star reports on The Bayliffe’s House in Benthall, describing it as "a magnificent Tudor gem of a home", Grade II listed and with marvellous gardens featured in magazines such as GQ, Vogue and House and Garden. On with Lane Fox of Bridgnorth for £700,000 and built in 1535, it has a studio in the extensive gardens currently used as a yoga studio and a handmade wooden summerhouse.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Green shed/friggebod

The marvellous Treehugger has a piece on designer Sy Willmer's version of a green garden shed produced as part of his university course in Sweden (where 'shed' translates as 'friggebod'). The result was a green roofed, solar panelled, modular building which can be used for shedworking as well as pottering. As it's green, naturally wood comes from sustainable forests and insulation is recycled paper. If you're in Sweden before June 2 you can see it exhibited at Röhsska Design Museum Göteborg. More information from Sy's site here. And if you haven't explored Treehugger, it's a marvellous site, genuinely global in scale and written expertly but sensibly, covering anything and everything that's 'green'. Well worth a look.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Photo competition - National Shed Week

As part of the National Shed Week celebrations, and Shedworking are running a photo competition. As Uncle Wilco says: "There will be lots of sheds out there that people want to share, but if they are not the owners of the shed, then they can’t win shed of the year. To fulfil the need for us to see the other great sheds out there, we will be running a Shed Photo competition - you need to be a member, but it’s free. You just need to add photos of sheds you see out and about to the group and we will come up with a winner during National Shed week." Prizes include a flickr pro membership (for a new member or add another year for pro member), Beach Huts, the book, and other nice goodies. Pictured is one of the entries. To enter, simply click here.

Your shed on television for National Shed Week

Tiffany Foster, features producer at ITV (Thames Valley) is keen to run a piece on sheds in the runup to National Shed Week. She is interested in getting in touch with potential entrants in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire & Surrey (outside the M25) and also north Hampshire. "Given the iconic status they have in British culture," she says, "I believe we could turn it into a fun feature for local news." If you'd like to get in touch with her, you can email Tiffany here

Deck house

A marvellous, 5.4 metres square shedlike atmosphere from designers Noek in Australia, though it might get a bit parky in the UK winters. It comes in three marvellously named timbers (blackbutt, spotted gum and iron bark) with bi-fold or hinged-up doors and an iron roof. Optional extras include kitchen, bed, massive beanbag, wardrobe and - another extra to add to my 'ultimate shed' list - an outdoor shower. There's a great piece at inhabitat on Australian prefab building which includes several shedlike buildings.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Homeworking isn't environmentally friendly

At least that's what the Sunday Telegraph suggests in a piece called 'Go green: work at the office not at home'. Commenting on a new report from WSP Environmental, the paper says that: "the growing numbers who avoid daily commuting could actually be contributing to global warming. They typically produce almost a third more carbon dioxide in a year than staff based in offices." Yes, there's no commuting, but homeworkers use more heating and power during winter which outweighs benefits. So a fulltime homeworker produces 2.38 tons of carbon dioxide, compared to a 'normal' office worker at 1.68. One riposte comes from Greenman at his blog who points out that: "a quick scan of the Internet reveals that according to the page about them on the EU Commission's Managenergy website WSP is 'one of the largest consultants providing management and design expertise in the property sector throughout the world. Its expertise range from the world's tallest buildings and corporate headquarters to hospitals, urban regeneration and leisure. WSP provides expert advice on a wide range of transport related engineering projects, including roads, rail, bridges, tunnels and utility services. Its extensive experience including planning, analysing, designing and managing projects for a wide of range of service providers."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Eye Candy - Rooms Outdoor penthouse

More eye ogling than sheer eye candy this week. Here is a penthouse building from Rooms Outdoor built in London. You can see more of the company's work at their Picasa site. If you're a Picasa fan, you can see all the Shedworking pictures from this site here.

The Qube shortlisted for Grand Designs award

The Qube is up for a gong at the Grand Designs Magazine Awards 2007, shortlisted in the outdoor living category which takes in tables, chairs, BBQs, benches, planters, hammocks, parasols, awnings, outdoor showers and hot tubs as well as garden offices/sheds. The category is sponsored by the Western Red Cedar Export Association so hopefully that is a lucky portent. The winner will be announced at the televised awards dinner on June 8 on Channel 4. If you win Mick, I hope you'll give Shedworking a namecheck and mention us to Kevin...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What do you do in your garden office?

Nikki Spencer has a nice piece in the Telegraph about different uses of garden offices (music room, artistic haven, children's den) as well as general shedworking. Nikki, a writer in South London, writes: "I had been thinking of a loft conversion, but a garden studio was cheaper, less hassle and - because I have a long, wide garden - gives me more space. During the day it's my work area, but in the evenings and weekends it's also a great place for the kids and their friends." Hers is from Garden Lodges and has an optional textured rubber floor from Blackheath Flooring Studios plus a deck. I'm also grateful to her for alerting me to a supplier I knew nothing about, AM Hilton Garden Studios which we'll be reviewing soon on the site. Photos by Matt Writtle.

It started in a shed

Technology giant HP is one of the many companies that started from shedlike premises. You can still visit the HP Garage today (pictured here in 1939 when Hewlett-Packard was founded) as it is California Historic Landmark No. 976 — Birthplace of Silicon Valley. HP have preserved it at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, and although it's not open to the public, you can see it from the pavement/sidewalk. There's a huge amount of detail and numerous articles about the garage at the HP site here. Thanks to Cathy Dobson for alerting me to this.

Closer to home (well, my home), is Herbert Frood's shed at Combs in the Peak District. In his garden shed he designed 'brake shoes' for horse-drawn cart wheels from hair and bitumen. He called them Ferodo and made a fortune thanks to commissions from, among others, the London General Omnibus Company and the army who fitted them to their tanks.
The hut is still preserved, on the works bowling green of the factory he moved out to when the shed got too small. More information from Peakland Heritage here.

Homeworking - good for nature?

Commenting on the Oxford University report we mentioned here last week, Peter Warren in the Guardian's technology pages suggests that it's not as simple as homeworking good, officeworking bad when it comes to the environment. Warren writes: ""The more that people work from home, the more computers there will be," says Jon Godfrey of Lifecycle Services, which specialises in recycling old machines. Meanwhile, increasingly powerful computers demand increasingly hungry power supply units, says Godfrey. "Computers used to have 250W power supplies. Now modern computers have 500W power supplies. They also have items like servers and routers which are left permanently on."

Ecospace's ecocube - another Chelsea launch

Ecospace have gone for a wallless shed for their latest architectural offering, the ecocube, launched this week at the Chelsea Flower Show. You probably wouldn't want to leave your laptop in it overnight, but as an outside space to work in, it's certainly better than the kitchen table. It comes with planters, a roller canopy and various screens. More details at ecospace's web site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Newlook Shedworking

Nobody likes change. But then again, a change is as good as a rest. I think it's time that the Shedworking blog got a springclean (and a really nice header graphic by Candy Gourlay of Home Sweet Shed fame). Let me know what you think.

No more glass ceiling for flexible workers

That's the thrust of an interesting piece in the Guardian by Lucy Ward. She writes that a new report from Working Families suggests that "the glass ceiling preventing flexible working for people in senior managerial jobs is beginning to crack as City banks, law firms and other top companies allow key staff to balance work and life. Even the highly conservative employment practices of the City are being challenged by men and women who want to combine high-level work with caring for children or older relatives. As a result, flexible working policies such as compressed hours, home working and - sometimes - part-time working or job sharing are beginning to extend from low-level posts to managerial roles for the first time in the UK." The study focuses on 23 senior managers working reduced hours or flexibly at Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Shell, BT and City legal firms. "However," writes Ward, "despite highlighting a number of senior managers with flexible working patterns, the report warns that the myth that senior jobs can only be done full-time in an office persists in many organisations."

How to build a garden office at Chelsea

Candy Gourlay has some marvellous photos of the construction of Shomera's garden office for Diarmuid Gavin's show garden at Chelsea Flower Show. If you haven't already taken a look, her Home Sweet Shed blog is a great step-by-step personal guide to having a garden office installed.

Ecospace - newlook web site

Ecospace have revamped their web site (it's now in Flash though there is still an html version) and it's now an even better showcase for their garden offices. I particularly like the birdsong on the home page but there's also a nice element called The Configurator where you can fiddle around with designs for your shed and see how much it would cost with a mini-kitchen. And of course there are plenty of examples of ecospace buildings around the country too.

Al Gore's home office

How does it compare to yours? From Time magazine.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wi-fi and shedworking

BBC's latest Panorma programme looked at the subject of wi-fi. It focused on schools but still raised some pertinent questions about how safe it is for shedworkers and those working in shedlike atmospheres in terms of radiation levels. You can read more about it here and watch the programme again for the next seven days here.

Scott's new National Trust sheds at Chelsea

It's not just the main show gardens which feature sheds and garden offices. Scotts of Thrapston are displaying their new range of summerhouses produced in collaboration with the National Trust at the show this year. There are two models, neither with insulation as standard though this is an add-on option:

* The Writer's Retreat, inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s rotating garden shed near St Albans. Scott's describe the building's styling as "shabby romantic" and it comes with a Chalk Blue finsh, pressure treated, redwood boarding, and (nice touch this) an upholstered, full-width day bed. There's also a foldable desk and galvanised corrugated metal roof. Best of all, it can be fitted with a rotating base as was Shaw’s writing hut.

* The Reading Room, inspired by the tool shed at the bottom of Virginia Woolf’s garden is a similar size but made from oak and has a drop-down day bed, writing table and book shelves and period ironmongery to create a garden retreat of rare appeal.

Marshalls Sustainability at Chelsea Flower Show

Although not specifically a shed, the Scenic Blue-designed Marshalls Sustainability Garden at Chelsea does have an intriguing cedar studio building underneath an earth rubble mound from where you could work (though not sure about wi-fi?). It's also admirably sustainable, for example, its solar-panelled sculptures produce electricity and there is a general theme of recycling: gabions filled with stone rubble create walls for the mound and studio building. Growing on the mound are foxgloves and mixed wildflowers - now that's what I call a green roof. It's all designed by Roger Smith. You can enjoy a 360 virtual tour via the BBC by clicking here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Expert opinion on new planning laws

Updating today's earlier post in superquick style, Lynn Fotheringham from InsideOut Buildings comments that: "Ruth Kelly's relaxation of the planning laws may help shorten the lead times for obtaining a garden office. We find that 80% of our garden offices need planning permission, because they are in Conservation areas. At the moment there is no indication of how the new rules will apply in Conservation areas and it is possible that Conservation rules will remain the same. Outside of Conservation areas it looks as if fewer garden offices will need planning permission and hence lead times between ordering and building will be 8 to 10 weeks shorter. However, until we see the fine detail we don't know if planning restrictions such as needing planning permission because the office is nearer to a public highway than the main house will be lifted. In short, we have never had a problem getting planning permission for a garden office, but this new ruling should in many situations reduce the client's frustration of having to wait so long for their building." For details of InsideOut Buildings: The Garden Office click here.

Diarmuid Gavin and Shomera at Chelsea Flower Show

We've reported several times in the run-up to this year's Chelsea Flower Show about the garden offices and sheds to be seen, especially in the show gardens. Pride of place is very likely to go to the garden office from Shomera which will be on display in Gavin's Westland Garden. The building, effectively two garden studios, has been transported from Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath to Chelsea. On Shomera's web site Diarmuid Gavin says: “Increasingly, people are working from home and devoting a room in the house to an office or studio space. This garden has been designed for an active and artistic couple. The pavilion has two wings that intersect, providing two glass studio spaces, each with its own deck overlooking a pond. I approached Shomera as I have been an admirer of their high quality, innovative design for many years and was very keen to have a full Irish team involved in this entry at Chelsea. I am very impressed with how Shomera’s expertise has brought my design to life in a way that will excite and stimulate all visitors to the garden."

Key changes to planning permission

Will it soon be easier to build a garden office/shed? As reported everywhere including here in The Times by Jill Sherman, if you own your home, it will be easier to build extensions and convert your loft without planning permission as the government plans to make the whole planning process easier and faster. There's no specific mention about garden offices and I'll press them to find out if they'll be affected too. As Sherman says: "At present homeowners have to pay up to £1,000, including drawings, to obtain planning permission for minor alterations which can take between eight and sixteen weeks. Permission is needed for solar panels, satellite dishes, wind turbines, loft conversions, porches and extensions to the back or sides of properties." Apparently of the 350,000 domestic planning applications submitted to local authorities every year, more than 90 per cent are granted immediately.

Sherman continues: "Under the new proposals, to be published in a consultation paper, most home improvement developments will be able to go ahead immediately provided that they comply with height and depth restrictions and meet an 'impact test'. Those owning detached homes will be able to extend the width of their properties by 50 per cent without planning permission. They will be able to build out at the back by four metres and up to the height of the roof. They will also have much more flexibility to build garages and bike sheds in their gardens. The planning White Paper will also allow councils to fast-track small domestic and commercial extensions, unless they are proposing a change of use."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Say hello for National Work From Home Day

It's National Work From Home Day today and to mark this auspicious celebration, I'll be keeping you updated with what I'm up to at Shed HQ (pictured), as it happens, CNN-style, throughout the day. It would also be lovely if you would like to leave a comment, saying hello and maybe a little bit about what you're doing today, whether you're shedworking, homeworking or just plain old working.

8.30am - Kisses for the children and it's off to the shed with a cup of coffee, The Guardian and my slippers.

8.33 - Fire up the MacBook Pro and check for phone messages. Quick whizz through selected RSS Feeds including Enterprise Nation, Telegraph Property, 50-Plus Marketing, Bread and Circuses, Inhabitat, Me And My Big Mouth, Girl Friday, MoCo Loco, Treehugger, and the shedblog. Quick whizz through emails. Pick of the day so far is Lynn 'Inside Out Buildings' Fotheringham's post at her Office in the Garden blog on the importance of garden office insulation and suggesting that employers should offer insulation grants instead of cars as a company perk.

8.45am - On the To Do list today is write an article about shedworking for the liveworkhomes web site, finish off a membership magazine for a client (the charity NACC), type up minutes of a Performance Management meeting I attended as vice-chairman of Governors at my local school, and put up some photos of my school reunion last Saturday on a separate blog. But first I'm off for my weekly Friday swim. Back about 10.15am.

10.45am - Invigorated post-swim. The post arrives. Nothing exciting. Cracking on with the shedworking article. Once I've finished my coffee.

10.54am - The To Do list grows as some pages for Active Life magazine (where I'm deputy editor) arrive to be subbed.

11.12am - Usually Fridays are fairly quiet but today things are starting to pile up: the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation, for whose magazine Rapport I write regularly, get in touch to commission three more articles. At least the deadline is some way off.

11.22am - The cricket is underway. Nobody's out yet. 212-3. We might win...Hope you're all listening to it on Test Match Special.

11.34am - Cook is out for 105. 219-4.

1.03pm - Finish the subbing for Active Life. England go into lunch in a strong position. I go into lunch feeling quite peckish and with my To Do list looking, as always, overly optimistic.

2.10pm - Back in the shed after a German sausage and tomato sandwich, cucumber sticks and hummous, with three Obregon olives. And a glass of water. As usual on a Friday afternoon, emails are drying up and the phone is very silent.

3.03pm - Finish article on shedworking, a mere five hours later than planned. And Collingwood has one of the streakiest centuries of recent years. England 352-4.

3.35pm - A quick trip into the house for a coffee and to powder my nose. It's that time of the week when it's getting harder to concentrate...

4.07pm - Finish performance management minutes while enjoying coffee in my Green Man mug. Prize for dullest email subject today goes to Microsoft Small Business News for their 'Jazz up your Excel spreadsheet and more new tips' which did not excite me.

4.45pm - Bad news. One of my clients sends through the information I've been waiting for all day which means we can't possibly hit our planned deadline. Good news. The client has wisely extended the deadlines. And Prior has got his first test match 50. And it's sunny. And the boys are back from school.

6.02pm - That's it for National Work From Home Day for me. I've just about finished everything I set out to do, enjoyed the cricket, sneaked in an episode of Desperate Housewives which I was too ashamed to mention earlier, and now I'm going out for dinner with friends. All in all, a very pleasant day. Hope yours was the same. Cheers.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fact: homeworking can reduce global warming

The surveys for National Work From Home Day are coming in thick and fast. Quite a lot are dull, but this one from Oxford University as reported on Online Recruitment is more interesting demonstrating "conclusively" that the reduction in commuting time resulting from people working at home will mean less carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Sadly the research also claims that although more people want to shedwork and homework, Government and business are not doing their joined-up thing to make sure the planet survives. The authors say: “Working from home has not featured very highly in Government policy and there has not been any clear statement or encouragement from central or local Government on this. There is an opportunity for teleworking to sit at the heart of a co-ordinated policy that could involve sustainable transport.” Aaron McCormack, CEO BT Conferencing said: “On average, one conference call to replace a face to face meeting can save up to 40kg of CO2.”

Tentworking - the first pictures

On Monday we wrote about tentworking, following Elizabeth's comments at her Charlottesville Words blog. She has been kind enough to send a photo of her in her tentworking environment in action with her laptop.

UK's first business centre for homeworkers

As I was born in Shrewsbury, I'm delighted to report that the UK’s first retail and business centre specially designed for shedworking and homeworking entrepreneurs will be launched tomorrow, National Work from Home Day, in my birthtown. Enterprise HQ in Shrewsbury has been designed to cater for the business needs of home-based entrepreneurs from Shropshire’s rural areas and is a joint project with
economic regeneration company Shropshire Enterprise Partnership and Advantage West Midlands. Fay Easton, Director of Projects for Shropshire Enterprise Partnership, said: "Shropshire is the first place in Europe to respond to the changing modes of business, which have created a prolific 21st century industrial revolution resulting in cutting edge style ‘cottage industry’. Homeworking is predicted to create the greatest major change to working practices since industrialisation and Shropshire is responding to this change. With resources such as the Enterprise HQ in place, the county will be seen as an economic pioneer in establishing support for new-economy businesses."

Enterprise HQ will enable Shropshire’s entrepreneurs to access business information and tailored resources and the new centre will combine collective retailing, advertising and promotion for the home-based businesses. Styling itself as an ‘Office meets Coffee Shop’, Enterprise HQ will include a retail gallery, state of the art wireless connected enterprise lounge, private meeting space, a 60 sq ft art wall to showcase artist’s work, and a unique ‘Tycoon’s Kitchen’ which will enable private caterers and food producers to arrange demonstrations or tastings for potential buyers. Fay, The Shed is always a potential buyer.

You can find out lots more about the project by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Quality Mark for flexible working

Sir Digby Jones launched the new Work Wise UK Quality Mark today which will allow any organisation to gain recognition for their successful introduction of new smarter working practices in the workplace. The Mark will be assessed using the Work Wise UK Standard which has been developed in collaboration with the TUC, Transport for London, HBOS, NHS, BT and the Association for Commuter Transport. It provides a framework both for organisations that have already introduced smarter working practices and wish to go further, or those that are just realising the benefits and want to start reforming their working practices. Jones said: “Those organisations which achieve the Work Wise Quality Mark will be well placed to attract the very best staff, as the labour market becomes ever more competitive and society becomes increasingly aware of the benefits of flexibility and new ways of working.”

Assessment for the quality mark will normally take two days and require an organisation to demonstrate:
* Understanding and use of smarter working techniques as a strategic planning tool
* Staff involvement in defining future strategies
* Vision in planning for the future

The assessment will determine how effective an organisation is at recognising that smarter working, in its widest sense, contributes to not only organisational success, but employee satisfaction. It will cover the following elements:
* Operational benefits
* Client benefits
* Employee benefits
* Change management
* Legal aspects
* Transport and environment
* Healthy workplace

Work Wise Week summit

It was the big Work Wise Summit today in London, kicking off a week of festivities encouraging people in the UK to work in their sheds and shedlike atmospheres rather than commute like lemmings. They fitted a lot in so just to give you a flavour of the action, a few quotes from the day:
* David Lennan, chairman of Work Wise UK, said: "Working 9 to 5, five days a week, from a central location, coupled with the desire to travel many many miles to attend meetings, are working practices which are largely unnecessary considering the technology available today."
* Sir Digby Jones, UK skills envoy and former director general of the CBI, said: “Just look at the impact the Industrial Revolution had on the world and the prosperity of this country when we innovated and embraced new technologies and working practices in the 19th century."
* Equalities Minister and my old college pal Ruth Kelly, making the keynote speech, said: "We are committed to ensuring that more people can make the most of their skills and contribute to our national prosperity, and will continue to take employers with us on this journey."
* TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: ''The quality of working life is rapidly becoming an important issue for many working people. A growing number of employees want more flexibility about when and where they work."
* David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses need smarter working practices if they are to adapt to a labour market with vastly changed expectations and needs.”
* Ben Plowden, programme director of travel demand management, Transport for London, said: “In the next 15 years, the Capital’s population is expected to grow by 800,000 people, which will greatly increase the demand on the transport network, particularly during peak hours. As around 65 per cent of journeys made during those times are work related, it is really important that London's employers are able to take advantage the opportunities smarter working practices can offer both their organisations and their employees."

Shedworkers trade miles for smiles

Enterprise Nation claim that home business owners are saving more than £4,000 in travel costs every year. They also save 564 hours of commuting time and nearly 3,000kg of carbon dioxide emissions. The findings come via their natty savings calculator sponsored by electronics company Brother mentioned on this site the other day. Emma Jones, editor of Enterprise Nation and a home business owner herself, said: “We launched the calculator so that people starting and growing their businesses at home could see for themselves the cost, time and environmental savings. When these results are applied to the estimated 8 million people operating commercially from home, we are looking at billions of hours that are spent productively at home as opposed to sitting in traffic jams and billions of pounds that are being invested in developing a business rather than spent on travel costs."
Enterprise Nation is also running a competition that offers a free iPod to home business owners who reveal their plans for the day.


German-based Zendome market their geodesic buildings, which start at a garden office-friendly size of 30m², as moveable buildings for events, but they would also be an eyecatching spot for any shedworker. The larger versions come with some circular windows and they're all PVC coated polyester-fabric,100% weather proofed, translucent and - because you just never know - flame retardant. There's a nice time lapse of a construction here plus a short history of all things geodesic.

Japanese shed

Sadly my Japanese is pretty stinky so I can't tell you much about this Japanese-built garden office/shed from tsubomi except that it's made of aluminium. However if you go here then you can see a nice slideshow with some very restful music.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

European homeworking

Europe has very different attitudes to homeworking, according to IT Pro who spoke to Gartner analyst Caroline Jones about future homeworking trends. "In the UK, it's popular and suits the way we do things," she said. "If you go to Southern places, like France and Spain, far fewer of the corporate population are teleworking. The idea of mixing home and work life is not something they've wanted to do. Nordic nations are ahead of the curve largely because of government help in the form of tax cuts for companies that supply PCs and internet connections in the homes of their employees - a good boost to the economy as it encourages people to take up the internet. Such programs are not on offer here in the UK." She added that the UK has a high proportion of homeworkers despite not much direct intervention from the government."

IT professionals like homeworking shock

In one of the least surprising news stories of the year, reports that remote working is popular with IT professionals. It says that more than 90% of over 200 IT professionals canvassed by said they would enjoy the option to work flexibly, with a quarter revealing that they had turned down a job because of a lack of flexible working options. On the down side they add that nearly half of those questioned said that they thought a request to work flexibly would be refused by their bosses. Ray Duggins, the managing director of, is quoted as saying: "The number of IT professionals turning jobs down because of the flexible working issue is shocking when you think of all the effort that goes into getting to the stage of a job offer. If IT organisations are not listening to what their staff want and attracting candidates accordingly, IT professionals are showing that many are willing to go elsewhere."

Homeworking calculator

Enterprise Nation have launched a new calculator which demonstrates the benefits of flexible working. Their 'savings calculator' demonstrates the benefits of flexible working by showing business owners and employees how much time and money they spend on commuting each year and what the cost is to the environment. It's sponsored by the homeworking friendly Brother and aims to help those who want to work from home make a clear case to their employers, and encourage businesses to become or remain home based and enjoy the savings. Click here to try it out.

Weird sheds

Richard Boyd at the Real Oasis blog has thrown down the gauntlet and asked if we know any sheds weirder than this one. If you do, let us know.

The smallest room

San Sharma over at Enterprise Nation asked me earlier this morning about lavatories in sheds. For those of you like San worried about wasting valuable minutes when rushing from shed to house to powder your nose, consider installing a composting toilet in your garden office. We like the Envirolet® Waterless Self-Contained Systems, an all-in-one unit that you can install directly onto the shed floor without needing any external plumbing or even water. Among the many benefits are that they are environmentally friendly (they reduce and recycle waste into compost), feature patented Automatic Six-Way Aeration (no worries about odours) and can be used in winter (no worries about freeze-ups). There’s a video on the site which is bound to convince you. And there’s a heater control switch too.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tentworking - the next big thing?

Elizabeth at the Charlottesville Words blog (a blog by, for, and about readers and writers in central Virginia) has a marvellous post about Tentworking. "Last Sunday I had a sudden inspiration to set up one of our tents in the backyard," she writes. "No special reason; it was a nice day and my son had a friend over and I thought someone might enjoy using it. Then I had another inspiration — I would use it. So now most afternoons I go out to the tent with my notes and steno pad and a pen and scribble for an hour or two. Sometimes I nap. Sometimes I sit and listen to the birds. It’s very refreshing. I look forward to my writing time every day now instead of dreading it...I think tents are the next wave of shedworking. Light, portable, affordable — Tentworking." Is tentworking the new shedworking?

Shedworking and birdwatching

Jenny Diski is one of the many writers who work in a shed and her web site has a marvellous description of it. If you're considering going down the garden office route but still not sure, her words will surely persuade you. "I work in a shed at the bottom of the Poet's [Ian Patterson] garden. More palatial than a shed. More palatial than a palace. Windows and glass doors, wood and white paint. Warm. The trains to Kings Lynn run along the end of the garden. There are bird feeders on the fence opposite my desk, in front of the shed where I can watch from my armchair and hanging on the raddled old apple tree that has hardly any leaves left on it now but is an excellent staging post for blue tits, sparrows, chaffinches, starlings, blackbirds, robins, collared doves and once a goldfinch to make a dash for the seed con-tainers. Mostly I watch the birds come and go. Sometimes I work. If anyone asks, I explain that I stare at the birds in order to work, but it's just as likely to be the other way around."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Andrew Marr's shed

At the risk of teetering on the very brink of obsessive garden office spotting, Andrew Marr and his shed appear on the front cover of today's G2 section in The Guardian (it's the background to a nice story about e-books which you can read here).

Friday Eye Candy - Pure Folly

Phil Game runs Pure Folly, a marvellous company which builds follies, garden furniture, bridges, tree houses and garden sheds (he also does illustrations and graphic design). He's worked on a number of Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Show projects and of course private commissions of which my favourite is this cabin called Moulder's Retreat.

And here's the shed he designed for Quarryman's Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show 1998. "I was responsible for designing and building the Quarryman’s shed together with David Williams, a wood-carver from Wales," he writes. "I spent many weekends in the Wye valley together with David, collecting wood and other artefacts. We built the shed in sections so it could be taken down and transported to Chelsea to be rebuilt for the show. We were meticulous with the details. Please note the carved butterfly roof ridge and oak roof shingles, the stone lifter, the Adirondack-style chair and porch support, the old gate and the bird’s nest in the rambling rose."

Take part in our polls

As you can see on the left hand column, we've started up a poll. This is in the leadup to National Shed Week so please take part (you can only vote once so think carefully before making your click) and we will share the results with the world in July. Wilco over at the blog is also running a shedlike poll so please nip along there too and share your shedthoughts.

"Relegated" to the shed!

The Work Wise Week bandwagon is starting to roll and to coincide with the fireworks and fiestas next week bespoke furniture designers Neville Johnson have released research which claims that 85% of homeowners over 35 work or study at home. However, only one in five had a bespoke or dedicated home office, with almost 40% saying that they currently used their spare room.

Now if they had stopped there I would have been quite happy but they've spoilt my Friday with the next line in their press release. "Many people set up office where they can, in just about any room in the house, with one in a hundred men even relegated to the shed!"

"Relegated!" Humph!

If you'd rather have a Neville Johnson study than a garden office, click here for details.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tokyo homeworking

If you've ever planned to be a homeworker in Japan, then you'll be interested in this story in today's Guardian. Essentially, the city is experimenting with a massive wi-fi infrastructure so you'll be able to hook up whatever portable device you have and download whatever information you want wherever you are in town. Project leader Ken Sakamura is quoted as saying: "The technology is a double-edged sword. Ubiquitous networks will be great for teleworking, working from where you like with a small terminal linked to embedded computers or multiple tags linked to a big server, but it also means the boss knows exactly where you are."

Art gallery in a (cow) shed

Near my old stomping ground of York, the Telegraph reports on a smart new art space, The Lund Gallery. Two years ago it was a disused cow shed, now it is a gallery space for paintings and ceramics run by local artist Debbie Loane. Apparently planning permission was a problem until Debbie and her husband (a chocolate physicist) took on a planning consultancy specialising in the conversion of agricultural buildings for alternative use. The gallery shed was a 19th century brick milking parlour which was in good condition.Click here to go toThe Lund Gallery.

Homeworking with Dilbert

There's an interesting interview at with Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, all about working from home (click here to see how Dilbert managed a homeworking experiment). Adams describes working from home as "pretty utopian", starts work at 5am, and says one of the biggest homeworking problems is overeating. "You always have time to stick something in your mouth. So I find I have to keep pretty much all the food out of my office area, like I can't have it in the office itself, 'cause I'll just eat it till it's gone."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Teacher's Scotch chases shed/homeworkers

According to Beam Global UK's Create Your Space campaign, which I posted about earlier this week, is aimed at men who want to indulge in time on their own. It's costing the company $2 million and is targeting "the common need in men over 30 wanting their own space". The plan is that pack promotions in on 70cl and 1-litre bottles will offer potential shedworkers the chance to win an "ultimate shed" tailored to their personal specification up to the value of £25,000. Just-drinks say: "Beam said that the idea is based on men having a need for "manspace" or somewhere where they can spend time in an environment that they have created, to develop their skills and authority on the subjects that matter most to them." Teacher's marketing manager Aileen Nicol is quoted as saying: Whether it is a shed, a basement or an office at home, space in modern life is at a premium. Teacher's can now help men to reclaim and create that 'man space' inspiring them to become authorities on their chosen passion." All very well and good, but how about women who might want an ultimate shed?

Sonic sheds

As part of Architecture Week (June 15-24), look out for the Sonic Sheds installation which will be held at a central London location to be confirmed and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The plan is that two sheds will provide a “haven” in their respective locations of either town or country sounds. In one of London’s busiest locations, visitors will be able to step into an oasis of calm in the sound-insulated shed, with images and sounds direct from Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Similarly, visitors to the park will be able to experience the slightly less fragrant metropolitan life in their shed, with traffic sounds and London images flooding the country shed. I know which one I'd rather be in.

Flexible working revolution on its way

It's nearly time for Work Wise Week and the fine folk at Work Wise UK have highlighted a new survey by First Direct revealing that more than a third of British workers now work outside traditional working hours. Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, said: “What we are seeing is the beginnings of a complete revolution in the way we work. The changes are unavoidable, and crucial if the UK economy is going to be able to compete in the global economy in the face of competition already emerging from India and China. But, generally, this change in the way we work is actually for the good. Apart from significantly improving productivity and competitiveness for businesses, adopting new smarter working practices, such as flexible working, home working, remote working and working from home, will also help employees achieve a better work-life balance, reduce the stress caused by work and long daily commutes, with associated health impacts, and positive effect upon family life. And at a time of huge concerns over the environment and congestion, the reduction in the need to travel and staggering of travel times will have a positive impact there as well."

The second annual Work Wise Week runs May 16 to May 22 including National Work from Home day on Friday, May 18. During the week, organisations will be encouraged to participate in smarter working practices such as allowing staff to stagger their commute and working from home.

Garden offices' carbon footprint

An interesting short piece by Lynn Fotheringham from Inside Out Buildings here on garden offices and carbon footprints. "Garden offices and other garden buildings can be as highly insulated as a new house to reduce their carbon footprint," she writes and draws up a simple checklist for those concerned about the issue including:
1. Have you got building regulation levels of insulation in your garden office to help balance your carbon footprint?
2. Has your garden office got double glazing?
3. When choosing new garden office equipment ask for an energy rating and don't leave any electrical equipment on stand-by.
4. Energy saving light bulbs.
5. Have the building materials in your new garden office been manufactured in the UK to reduce carbon miles and do the manufacturers care about their carbon footprint? Do they recycle. How do they fuel their manufacturing plant?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Homeworking in the attic

If you can't work in the garden, you could consider going up into your attic. The Telegraph has a nice short piece on loft conversions here by Caroline McGhie. In a comment that's equally applicable to shedworking, she writes: "It makes financial sense to expand rather than move."

Tree shedworking

Is a treehouse the best of all possible garden offices? It's certainly harder to imagine better shedworking conditions and for an excellent example of what is possible take a look at Treehouse Massage. Built in a 100-year-old Texan pecan tree, the treehouse is owned by Kent Portman (who also drew up the plans) who operates a massage business from its boughs. Floor level is 12ft off the ground with access via a spiral staircase. Inside is air conditioning, heating, a heated massage table (a must for any shedworker), sound system and skylights. There's a lovely slideshow on the site giving you a nice look at it, inside and out.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Shedworking featured in the Financial Times

An excellent article over the weekend in the Financial Times by Simon Busch about shedworking which rather puts the Guardian's recent effort to shame. Among those he talks to are writer Jenny Diski (a Cambridge shedworker). "Jenny Diski, who wrote her recent, acclaimed travel book On Trying to Keep Still in her office amid a wildflower garden in suburban Cambridge, says it’s not only the “hermit quality” of these substitute caves that appeals to writers," writes Busch. "A garden room is also “a way of making space between you and where you are living. It’s a way of going out to work, which writers don’t often do. And going somewhere to start work is important; it is a kind of ceremony.”" There are quotes from John Keenan from Rooms Outdoor and Jonathan Satchell from Hut. Busch was also kind enough to call this blog "encyclo­paedic" (which was very kind of him but is still a goal rather than a achievement).

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Win a £25,000 ultimate shed with Teacher's Whisky

I'm a very weedy whisky drinker but now I'm sorely tempted to concentrate my efforts. Teacher's Whisky has launched a new, superbly designed mini-site called create your space (click here to go there) at which you can design your own shed using an online click-and-drag tool and then 'share your shed' (now where have I heard that before?) with friends. Add a pool table or a fish tank, change the wallpaper motif on the walls, the shed's your oyster. From the comfort of your easychair, you can also access news about music, sport and film. Best of all, there is the chance to win a £25,000 shed - all you have to do is enter a bottle code from the Teacher's Whisky bottle by your side, add your email address and then hope for the best. You'll be seeing ads for them in all the glossy national press pages soon. Marstons ran something similar last year when they gave away 30 Ultimate Sheds, eash with a La-Z-Boy chair, DVD player, TV, Micro Hi Fi, ipod nano and mini fridge.

Guess what (another) homeworking survey reveals...

I've seen so many of these surveys in the last year that there hardly seems much point in yet another one, however welcome the results might be. This latest, from the Skipton Building Society, suggests nearly 60% of the country's employees would rather work from home, that they would save lots of money by doing so, and would even take a pay cut if that meant they didn't have to scrum into work every day. And of course they believe it would improve their life/work balance while at the same time making them more productive, and yet they feared a little about being lonely. Biggest distractions? Television, housework and children, so no surprises there either. The only findings which make this survey stand out at all (however welcome the results might be) is that nearly a third said they would not feel motivated to work if they worked from their house - what they need of course is a garden office/shed and they'd be away.

National Shed Week - update

Lila Das Gupta from the Daily Telegraph has written nicely about sheds before and is giving a big thumbs up to National Shed Week on her blog. As she says: "Home offices, gyms, theatres, home made museums for enthusiasts' collections, the possibilities are endless."

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Eye Candy - KO Basalt garden

This week's Friday Eye Candy is the KO Basalt garden by Dutch architects Krill. Designed in basalt stone more as a relaxing area than a specifically shedworking space, it would still be a lovely place to work with black granite floor tiles and an interesting mix of translucent polycarbonate walls with structural glazing.

The Shed magazine in The Sunday Times

I spoke to Roland White from the Sunday Times about a month ago for his review of Sam Martin's book Manspace (mentioned on this site back in February). Our conversation about shedworking has been whittled down a little but you can now read his article online here and it gives The Shed magazine a quick mention. If you'd like to see a copy, email me here.

Diarmuid Gavin's shed at Chelsea

Shed champion Diarmuid Gavin's plan (co-designed with Stephen Reilly) for his show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show (May 22-26) has changed slightly since we profiled it here last month and it's worth flicking back to check on the differences. It's still for an active and artistic mature couple but now includes a much more recognisably garden office structure, clad in western red cedar with two intersecting wings and two glass studio spaces, each with its own deck overlooking a pond. Recycled timber boards have been used for the floors in the buildings and rainwater is collected from the roof to water and top-up the pond. According to Candy Gourlay over at home sweet shed, the garden office is going to be supplied by Rooms Outdoor.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hobby Huts - Fat architects

London-based architects Fat is run by Sean Griffiths, Charles Holland and Sam Jacob who have produced some of the most interesting buildings of the last few years, including the famous Blue House in east London which is a kind of live/work venture. I particularly like their Hobby Huts (pictured) which are low cost structures in Hoogvliet, a suburb of Rotterdam. The huts can be rented by local small businesses, crafts people, artists and are part of a larger regeneration project that includes a park and community hall (also designed by FAT).

Also appealing are Fat's steel-framed 'accommodation units' for the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, Aberdeenshire (also pictured). According to Fat: "The proposal refers to the idea of basic shelter such as huts, tents, yurts, and shacks. It is intended as a sophisticated reworking of these ideas." Eclectic to the end, the design was apparently also influenced by recumbent stone circles, the shaggy coats of highland cattle, plastic wrapped bales of straw, agricultural machinery, semi-derelict buildings in the landscape, and anoraks.

Apartment Therapy

Not much shedworking in evidence at the Apartment Therapy site but plenty of ideas for homeworkers in general and especially those making the most of small spaces. Well worth a browse.

National Shed Week - Chris Evans

Uncle Wilco appeared on Chris Evans' awardwinning Radio 2 drivetime show yesterday afternoon telling listeners all about National Shed Week. Chris Evans also indicated that he might be part of the prizegiving celebrations in July... For more information go to the readersheds blog here where you can also here Wilco's shed chat again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Hermitary

Whether you like it or not, shedworking and homeworking tends to be a fairly solitary occupation. A fantastic site for those who regard a bit of peace and quiet as, on the whole, a good thing is The Hermitary which has a wide range of articles, book reviews and links on the subject of hermits and solitude. There's also an interesting blog, Hermit's Thatch.

Easyoffice - update

As mentioned on this site some months back, easyoffice is looking to launch its first premises, in London, later this year, probably around August. You can find out more information at their site here as well as use their online brokerage service to look for office space in your area (and indeed worldwide). Stelios said earlier this week at a kind of semi-official launch: "This flexible office space solution is designed with the true start-up entrepreneur in mind who knows it's a smart business move not to waste money, especially at the start of a new venture. Starting from £100 per office room per week right in the heart of Kensington the value is unbeatable." Pictured is a rough draft of how these offices are likely to look (click on it for a more readable size).

KPMG wins flexible working award

Consultant News reports that KPMG has won the City Award at the Opportunity Now annual awards which recognise UK employers who demonstrate the most commitment to and innovation in creating workplaces where women can succeed. KPMG's flexible working programme includes shorter working weeks, home working, job share, unpaid leave, annualised days, career breaks, additional holiday purchase and 'glide' time - when the start and finish times of the working day can be adjusted. The article says that:
* Over three years, 15 percent of KPMG's workforce have applied to work flexibly
* 95 percent of women who return from maternity leave are still employed at KPMG after 12 months. Of those, one third work flexibly.
* The number of flexible working applications rises annually - up by 38 percent in 2006

Habitat - Midnight Ocean

The new spring-summer 2007 range from Habitat is called Midnight Ocean and they have a lovely mini-catalogue to go with it. If you haven't had one delivered in your weekend papers, then you can go to their site here and enjoy it online as an e-magazine. There's a strong coastal theme which includes using various sheds as background eye candy, including this one pictured.