Sunday, November 29, 2020

Beach hut staycation boom


One of the side effects of the lockdowns has been a massive rise in interest in beach huts. For example, The Little Beach Hut Company (which recently changed ownership and is now run by friends Karina Duke and Louise Foo) which runs huts in West Mersea, has just launched special Christmas At The Huts bookings from November 28 to December 31 - they will be decorated with all the trimmings and each booking comes with a complimentary Christmas hamper.

Meanwhile,  Canterbury City Council is looking to build more than 100 new beach huts along the Herne Bay and Whitstable coast in order to raise somewhere in the region of £2 million. Council spokesman Rob Davies told Kent Online that the goal was to capitalise on the booming staycation market and said he thought the new huts would "sell like hot cakes". He added: “One of our key approaches has been to look for income-raising opportunities, which will reduce the level of savings we need to find and help us retain vital front-line services such as rough sleeper work and reducing homelessness."
 
Once given the green light by planners, the huts should be ready by summer 2021.

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Friday, November 27, 2020

The attractions of wintry shedworking


 
It's that time of the year now when we start to bring you lovely shots of garden offices in appetisingly wintry surroundings. To kick off the 2020 series, here is the tremendous garden office (and view from it) of solicitor Paul Bennett of Bennett Briegal, a specialist firm for other lawyers and their clients in the professions. Here's what he says about it:
"The commute is not as bad as it used to be #WFH I’ve gone from 3 hours each way once or twice a week to maybe 40 seconds... what a lovely winter's morning."
The firm also has an interesting blog which includes a useful post about Covid-19: Confidentiality and Working From Home.

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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Where to put your garden office

A short but useful quick reminder for those of you thinking about becoming shedworkers comes from Gardening Etc - it lists five considerations for your garden office and we felt the second point was worth noting in particular. Here it is:

Assuming the end of the garden is the best location for your garden office can be an error. ‘Is there an awkward, unloved nook in your garden that could be better used instead?’ asks Nick. ‘What view would you like? Do you want your building to face north for a cooler outlook, south for a sunny aspect, east for the morning sun or west for afternoon warmth and glorious sunsets?

Image courtesy Arctic Cabins

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Zoom Room

 

As we head towards the end of 2020, this is likely to be the last new model of the year, and it's the appropriately named Zoom Room from Swift Garden Rooms. Full details still to be announced but the chief selling point seems to be that it can be delivered and built in your garden in a single day in full 'plug and play' mode with  mains power, USB chargers, and remote control lighting.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Stilgoe in the Shed

Pianist and singer Joe Stilgoe (Richard's son, for those of you who think the name sounds familiar) has been broadcasting from his shed during both lockdowns in the UK, initially daily and then moving to weekly performances. Now, he has released an album (his eighth) called Stilgoe in the Shed, featuring 15 songs recorded on one day in his shed in Sussex following feedback from listeners.

“All these songs mean different things to different people," says Joe, "but for me there’s an attachment because at a time when the days seemed to meld into one another, playing every day in the shed gave me a tangible memory for each flip of the calendar, and each song its own poignant place. They, and music in general, took on new meaning during the lockdown and I’m grateful not only for the escape and comfort that music brings but also the support I and the show received every day.”

Here he is with a lovely rendition of Wichita Lineman.

 

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Garden office cakes



These marvellous shedworking cakes were made by the latest customer of Swift Garden Rooms for her installers who have been putting together her new garden baking studio. Top work.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Pandemic is convincing managers that working from home is viable, says new study

One of the historic problems about shedworking and working from home in general has been the reluctance of some managers to believe that it is a viable option. But according to a new study from the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham and the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance team at the University of Kent, managers have become more positive about their staff working from home since lockdown.

Researchers spoke to more than 700 managers across the UK in a range of industries and at all levels of management for what is the first academic piece of research exploring managerial experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.

Overall, 55% of managers reported over 80% of their employees have been working from home since lockdown. The key finding of the study is that "fewer managers now believe that presenteeism and long working hours are essential to career progression within organisations". Indeed, 56% of managers also reported that working from home increases productivity, concentration, and motivation due to their experiences in lockdown, a rise of 14% compared to pre-lockdown figures.

Dr Holly Birkett, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham said:

“The report shows managers are much more positive about working from home and flexible working, than they were before the pandemic.  Managers say their organisations are going to be more supportive of homeworking and flexible working in the future, including more likely to support working from home, job shares and part time working even for Senior roles. This change along with the breakdown of the presenteeism culture and the removal of a flexibility stigma, which existed before COVID -19, could help improve employee wellbeing, help to support people to take on caring roles and break down many of the barriers women face to balancing career and family, with the potential to improve female representation on Boards and close the gender pay gap.”

Dr Heejung Chung, Principal Investigator of the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance Project at the University of Kent added:" As we have also seen in our previous employee survey, the flexible working genie is out of the bottle - more workers want to work flexibly in the future, and as this report has shown, managers now see how flexible working can benefit companies."

Photo courtesy Warwick Garden Buildings 

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

Piers Morgan: shedworker

Journalist and broadcaster Piers Morgan is about to become a shedworker. He announced his intention on the breakfast show Good Morning Britain this week and said he was looking forward to having his own dedicated garden office where he could write his columns and books. It's not clear exactly which model, but it comes from the Archipod stable which we have featured several times before on Shedworking. Planning permission is ongoing but it looks like it's going to happen.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Follies books


I have recently had a brief but good natured discussion with Uncle Wilco from readersheds.co.uk about whether a folly is a shed (rather than the other way round, of course). On the basis that shedworkers are interested in all elements of microarchitecture, Shedworking would recommend a couple of recent books about the subject. Published earlier this month is Follies: An Architectural Journey by Rory Fraser. Here's what his publishers say about it:

Everyone knows what a folly looks like, but few understand what they really are. Whether perched upon a local hilltop or nestled away in vast forest, these quirky structures are staples of English culture. But as Rory Fraser discovered in the summer after graduation, follies are also a staple of English history – defining the periods and places in which they were built, as well as the people who designed them. They are an ode to individualism, inspired by the great artistic movements of not only England, but countless other cultures and nations, such as the marvellous ‘Taj Mahal of Gloucestershire’. Fraser shares his stunning watercolours and travel writing to paint a new picture of England that explores its often
amusing, far-reaching and ancient history.
Also well worth a look is The English Folly: The Edifice Complex by Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp who are the UK's foremost experts on the subject and have written other excellent/definitive books about follies before (some of which are already on the bookshelves at Shedworking HQ). This one came out in the summer of 2020 and here's what their publishers say: 

If this were a novel, the tales of astounding wealth, sexual perversion, murder, munificence, rape, insanity, brutality, slavery, religious mania, selfishness, snobbery, charity, suicide, generosity, theft, madness, wickedness, failure and eccentricity which unfold in these pages would be too concentrated to allow for the willing suspension of disbelief. All these sins and virtues, and more, are displayed by the characters in this book, some exhibiting several of them simultaneously. Folly builders were not as we are. They never built what we now call follies. They built for beauty, utility, improvement; it is only we, struggling after them with our imperfect understanding, who dismiss their prodigious constructions as follies. Follies can be found around the world, but England is their spiritual home. Headley & Meulenkamp have turned their attention to the folly builders themselves, people so blinded by fashion or driven by some nameless ideology that they expended great fortunes on making their point in brick, stone and flint. Most follies are simply misunderstood buildings, and this book studies the motives, characters, decisions and delusions of their builders. If there was madness in their building, fortunately there was no method in it.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Andy Brown: shedworker


British shedworking artist Andy Brown is something of a stadiums specialist and has painted 90 ballparks in nine different countries, including all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. With the coming of a second lockdown and the obvious travel restrictions that places on him, he has turned his easel to sports venues closer to home and from his garden studio is planning to visit, and paint, all 20 Premier League stadiums virtually. Above is an image of his garden office and the first in the PL series, the Emirates home of the Arsenal (one of the few which the entire Shedworking staff have visited) though a nose around his website reveals other gems such as York City's Bootham Crescent. Below, he provides a personal tour of his studio.

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Monday, November 16, 2020

More than 90% of UK employees want to stay working at home

After extolling the delights of working from home for months, the inevitable media u-turn is now fully underway - over the last week among the headlines I've seen are 'Working from home could lead to more prejudice', 'Staff who work from home after pandemic should pay more tax', 'Working from home may put women at a disadvantage', and 'Young people dissatisfied with working from home'.

It's up for debate how true any of the above may be, but here's another angle - only 7% of people want to go back to their offices fulltime once lockdown restrictions are lifted, according to a survey by Trends Research. Half of those questioned said that they would choose to work from home either every day or most days, the rest to work from home some of the time. 

Men are slightly more keen than women to go back to their traditional office, and those with more children are also more likely to want to return to old ways.

Asked why they wanted to work from home, nearly three quarters said “comfort” and half that they felt more productive. Fear of contracting coronavirus in the office remains a concern, mentioned by a third.  Also, half said that they spent too much time commuting. A quarter said that no incentive could persuade them to work more frequently from the office. 

The survey also includes Shedworking's favourite stat of the year  - around 25% said that they preferred working from home as they enjoyed time away from colleagues.

Photo courtesy Norwegian Log

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Beach Hut of the Year award announced

There have been various Beach Hut of the Year competitions over the last few years (maybe we need some kind of merging to avoid a boxing-style situation). The latest is the inaugural one organised by Ipswich-based insurance brokers Ryans in collaboration with Millie's Beach Huts.

The competition places more emphasis on how beach huts are used rather than their decoration. And it's a very worthy winner, The Mary Anning Beach Hut in Lyme Regis which is only available to those affected by cancer (named for the 18th century palaeontologist who died of breast cancer in 1847), nominated by Nigel and Karen Ball from Lyme Regis.

Pictured above is Mary Kahn of the Axminster and Lyme Cancer Support Group at the hut on Marine Parade. Here's what she says about it: 

"Our beach hut is more than a wooden shed by the sea. It is a refuge for the anxious, the sick, the bereaved and those who want to spend valuable time with family before the opportunity is gone. It is a place for contemplation with your feet up in a comfortable recliner, somewhere to breathe in the sea air and shelter from the wind, to relax and forget your troubles for a while as you watch the sun sparkling across Lyme Bay and the Jurassic Coast. 

"A space to read, to paint, to doze. Our beach hut is for more than one person, one family. Ours is open to our special community of cancer patients and their loved ones, providing a sanctuary from which to watch the seaside activity when being part of it seems too challenging, a spot to watch the passers-by. It offers a chance of solace and relief, time to say what needs to be said or not say anything at all but listen as the waves gently sigh across the shingle. Our beach hut is a haven, bringing joy to hundreds throughout the year. Our beach hut is more than a wooden shed by the sea."

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Friday, November 13, 2020

SIPs-built garden offices on the rise

More confirmation of the rise in shedworking across the UK in an article on the Planning, BIM & Construction Today website which reports on the growth in demand for SIPS-built garden offices. They talk to Richard Bennett, business development manager of leading SIPS panels manufacturer Hemsec about the rise in use which up to now has only been rising steadily. Here's what he said:

“This year, however, is like no other, as people are currently required to work from home where possible. This means much less time is spent commuting to the office, and much more time with families, causing people generally to re-evaluate their lives... Homeowners are attracted by the speed of installation, their flexibility in their use and design and because they are extremely thermally efficient, as well as being great value due to the short payback period.”

There's a nice explanatory graphic about how SIPS fits into a garden office build at the Bridge Timber Garden Rooms site. 

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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Coal Bunker garden office

Launched officially in the New Year but given its first public outing at the recent Glamping Show 2020, here is The Coal Bunker from wood burning stove specialists Glamping Fires. The model with mezzanine level is pictured above and below in a walkthrough video. Although primarily aimed at the glamping market, it is also being pitched at prospective shedworkers as a garden office. More details in 2021.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Garden office pod wins title of “Creative Product of the Year”



I can't honestly say that I am familiar with the Boao International B&B Industry Development Forum and Industrial Resource Link Expo which was held recently. But I am delighted to report that Shanghai-based housing manufacturer Conrayn won 'Creative Product of the Year' for its garden office pod, pictured above. Here's what they say about it:

"It is designed to offer privacy in the garden home work area,  for people who want to be focused on working efficiently at home without being disturbed. Equipped with internet cable connections , table and cabinets, LED lighting and lighting belt, you just need to place one chair inside and enjoy the highly efficient workspace. Unlike other systems, Conrayn acoustic garden office pod doesn not need special foundation work and stands directly on your office floor,. With 4 foot castors, it can be easily pushed by one person, so is very convenient to be relocated."

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Coronavirus drives demand for working at home transformations says RIBA

New research commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) reveals the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on how people want to live and work at home. It shows that UK homeowners are increasingly demanding environmentally efficient properties that better support their new ways of living, as well as their mental health, happiness and family cohesion.

Around 70% of those questioned believe the design of their home has affected their mental wellbeing during the pandemic while RIBA’s research indicated that 23% believe a better-designed home will increase their happiness; they'd be able to relax more (31%) and sleep better (17%).

And with working from home now the ‘new normal’ for many, 15% want to improve the design of their home to help them be more productive.

“For many of us our home is our favourite place and an important part of our identity," said Environmental Psychologist and Lecturer at University of Surrey, Eleanor Ratcliffe. "Over recent months our homes have had to become the workplace, school, and gym, and yet still be a place to relax and recover from all the everyday stresses and strains - impacting entire households. The RIBA’s research demonstrates that many people realise that their home in its current form does not cater for all these different uses and users." Nearly a quarter of homeowners (23%) would reconfigure their existing spaces while 40% want more environmental-design features. Around 17% would create an office space to support working from home and 12% need more personal space.

Image courtesy Norwegian Log 

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Monday, November 09, 2020

Off Grid Life

Subtitled 'Your Ideal Home in the Middle of Nowhere', this book by Foster Huntington (author of the popular Van Life) is more aimed at the tiny house market but does include plenty of huts and shedlike buildings. It's heavy on images as you'd expect from a photographer and film-maker but still very pleasant. Here's the publisher's blurb:

Friday, November 06, 2020

Little Red Apple: lockdown garden office

Continuing our series looking at lockdown garden office builds, here's the attractive garden studio of Bristol-based card and jewellery designer Emma Garland who runs the Little Red Apple shop on Etsy. Here's what she says about it:

"I think the silver lining of 2020 for me has been getting our garden office. It had been planned for a while but the first lockdown and both of us working from home sped things up. I actually think each family member has benefited from a bit of extra space and being able to get out of earshot and sight of each other while being stuck at home for many months - I know I have! I now have space to store all my materials and stock in an organised way and I find it much easier to concentrate in there away from all the jobs that need doing in the house."

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Thursday, November 05, 2020

Garden office survey: only 8% of businesses say working in a 'traditional' office is a priority

As we enter a second lockdown, a new survey from garden office specialists Smart (one of their Ultra models is pictured above) argues that employers’ and employees’ priorities have changed since the pandemic has hit. The company's online The UK Work from Home Survey 2020 was completed by business leaders across the UK and reveals that:

  • 60%  say work life balance and spending time with their family is the main reason for considering working from home
  • 42% say being more productive and being able to prioritise is the main reason for considering working from home
  • 52% say being better off from not commuting is the main reason for considering working from home
  • 70% say that they would be happy for their staff to have a flexible approach to working from home in the future
  • Only 8% of businesses say that working in the office is a priority
  •  60% say time with family and time with friends will be the most influential factor to impact their happiness at home over the next 2-3 years

"The survey results show that business leaders are more open than ever to considering new options to ensure both them and their staff can deliver to the best of their ability," said Smart's Sue Philips, "wherever they are based, not only for the benefits of the business but also for the health and well-being of their staff."

You can read the full results on the Smart site here

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Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Garden shed to lockdown pub

 
 
Glasgow-based Gordon Watson has prepared for the coming of the second lockdown in Scotland by turning his garden shed into a golf-themed sports bar which, as a keen golfer, he has named The Shanker's Arms. It's taken him four weeks.

For more on pub sheds, take a look at the collection on readersheds.co.uk or even better, read my latest regular shed column in the new issue of the Idler magazine which is all about pub sheds (there's also my column on snooker too if that's of interest, all about the implications of silent sport).

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