Monday, November 21, 2016

Garden offices and the future of new homes

(This is a guest post by Frances Holliss, director of the Workhome Project)

In 10 years’ research I’ve found the shed to be one of the most popular ways of creating home-based workspace. It has a noble history. Writers including Virginia Woolf, Roald Dahl, Philip Pulman and JK Rowling, composers such as Grieg and Benjamin Britten, and artists including Barbara Hepworth and Damien Hirst all work(ed) in sheds.

Cheap to build and close enough to home not to need its own kettle, wi-fi or WC, the shed provides a separate realm for work for home-based workers in a wide range of occupations today, from BT manager to private investigator, journalist to curtain-maker, and sculptor to chef. Walking a few minutes down the garden path to such a ‘live-nearby’ workspace can provide the physical and mental separation from home that many home-based workers need to be effective in their jobs - the switch between domestic and employment functions.

Being able to shut the door on work at the end of the day - and not necessarily having to clear up - is also important for many people. So much better than the ‘desk-in-the-bedroom’ model, where work beckons from the bed, and vice versa. Or the ‘working-on-the-kitchen-table’ model, where boredom or getting stuck can lead to people getting distracted by the fridge, and unwanted weight gain, as well as work being disrupted by a returning household.

But popular and practical as the shed is as home-based workspace, when was the last time we saw a new housing development designed to include shed workspaces as standard? Never.

The home-based workforce is growing rapidly - the number of people working mainly from home increased by nearly 50% in the UK between 1998 and 2014. And new research shows more than 95% of UK businesses are microbusinesses employing fewer than 10 people, most of which are, or have been, run from their owner’s home. But we still do not design for it at either the urban or the building scale. We continue to design dwellings primarily as commodities for investment and exchange - increasingly as stacked apartments - rather than as places in which real people live their lives.

This is a huge issue. If you’re interested you can read more on my website or in my book ‘Beyond Live/Work: the architecture of home-based work’ reviewed here on Shedworking. And do get in touch with your experience - I really like to hear from shedworkers of all sorts:    --------------------------------------------------------------------
Monday posts are sponsored by garden2office, the Swedish garden office specialists. Click here for more details.

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