After an entire pandemic of living–and in some cases working–at home, outdoor living seems to be the theme of 2021.
From March 2020 through March 2021, Harvard Business School (HBS) surveyed nearly 1,500 professionals who worked remotely during the pandemic. In the results of an HBS survey, over 80 percent of respondents said that they would rather permanently work remotely (27%) or in a hybrid schedule (61%) than go back to the office as the country begins to open back. This shift in the American work environment could be an opportunity for remodelers and home improvement professionals to elevate their outdoor living offerings, including outdoor offices.
“There is a record amount of people continuing to work from home well into a year of this pandemic,” says Rachel Hudson, segment marketing associate for the shed division of LP Building Solutions. "People are no longer complaining about a commute or someone burning popcorn in the breakroom, but lack of space, noise distractions, and the nonexistence of work/life balance has become a significant concern.”
Understanding homeowners' needs for outdoor offices for remote work
Before building an office shed for a client, ensure that you understand the homeowner’s needs. Do they need to Zoom and thus need electricity and WiFi? Will they need multiple offices? Although adding too many rooms may turn the office into a tiny home situation, tailoring the shed to the homeowner’s needs will maximize the chance that they will use the space.
To successfully build an outdoor shed, a remodeler must specify the siding, flooring, roofing, windows, insulation, and lighting. Including a WRB, a radiant barrier, and an HVAC system are also options for increasing the comfort of the space. Sound like a whole-home renovation? It should as the homeowners will in theory be using the space very similarly to how they live in their primary home.
One concern with working outdoors is the cacophony of noises that come from lawnmowers, birds, children, and the neighbor’s beagle. The right building practices can help mitigate the noise. “While you’ll never be able to 100% soundproof your shed, you can reduce the noise levels by adding insulation,” Consider the use of a WRB to help avoid moisture from penetrating through the wall cavity into the insulation. Also, consider upgrading your windows and doors.
From She-Sheds to outdoor offices
Even before the pandemic, however, outdoor office sheds were gaining momentum. In 2019, the same year that the famous "She Shed" insurance company commercial aired, interior designer Liz Marie Galvan installed an office shed on her farmhouse property that was decked out with high-quality building materials and an HVAC system to ensure the room was usable all year round while blending in with the home’s design.
“We love that even though it is a new shed, it looks like it has always been here and was meant to be on our farm,” Galvan says. “It’s beautiful in terms of aesthetic and spacious enough to feel like a comfortable workspace, and its functionality makes it a great office outside of our home."
For the shed, Galvan specified LP Smartside Trim & Siding. She wanted it durable enough to last through harsh winters while also blending in with the farmhouse aesthetic of their home. By installing a sheathing with a radiant barrier in the roofing, the team also equipped the shed for the summer months’ heat.
“We also wanted lots of light in the shed to create a bright, welcoming office space, so we worked hand-in-hand with the shed designers to add custom windows with shutters for an extra flare,” Galvan says. “We also added house wrap, insulation and ensured the shed was wired to support electric needs for both office tech plug-ins and heat/air conditioning, making it a functional, beautiful office ‘away from home’ year-round."
So far, the shed has been through two Michigan winters and has worked even in winter with the heat and air conditioning installed inside.
Will the trend continue? Hudson believes so. “The mindset of the 40 hour/5 day work week is changing,” she says. “We are seeing modified work from home/in-office business structures, and initial reports are showing that people are not planning on quickly reverting to life outside the home.”