With millions more of us now working from home, finding your own, comfortable space to work can become increasingly difficult.
There is an innovative solution for those who have adequate garden space – shed offices. They have seen popularity boom over the lockdown period.
While building a conservatory used to be the most convenient way of adding space to your home, ‘shoffices’ are usually much easier and quicker to install – even if they tend to cost a similar amount.
Trend data from Google shows a sharp increase in searches for shed offices over the last three months and some websites are showing many designs as sold out.
Shed offices have grown in popularity as more people than ever are now working from home
And with some businesses hinting that they’ll be scaling down their own offices, allowing more people to work from home, interest could continue to grow.
Garden Affairs, a company that offers a large variety of shed offices, is one firm that has seen a huge increase in shed office purchases since lockdown.
Jude, a director of Garden Affairs in Trowbridge, said: ‘We have seen a massive surge in interest in shed offices since lockdown now that everyone is working from home.
‘Our European factories are inundated with requests.
‘Most of the newer requests are for smaller offices as not everyone has huge gardens to put a large shed in.’
Around 90 per cent of Garden Affair’s offices come bespoke with prices varying from £5,000 for smaller models up to £25,000 for the higher tech ranges.
The cheaper, more basic models are usually around 2.4metres by 1.8metres whereas the more expensive installations measure up to 5metres by 3metres.
The firm operates UK wide and will build the shed offices for you, although there is the option for you to build them yourselves if you want to.
However, before households consider having an office installed, there are certain things they will need to check first.
Data shows there has been an increase in searches for shed offices over the last three months
What to think about before installing a shed office
For those looking to get a shed office, there are a number of things to consider. This includes how big they want their shoffice to be, what materials they would like it to be made of and where it will go.
Before purchasing anything, customers should first find out whether they will need planning permission to build an office on their property.
Nobody will be able to install a shed office on their front garden without permission – however, most people will build it in the back.
Usually, planning permission is not needed if the office is not within two metres of your garden boundary, is two and a half metres high and has a flat roof.
However, it will depend on each property as to whether it is needed and whether it is considered a shed or an extension.
‘I’m so much more productive’: A shed office built from a flatpack kit
Martina Lennon, a virtual assistant from Ireland, installed her office after realising she needed more space when working from home.
Martina said: ‘Working from home, it can be challenging to find a healthy work life balance. I needed to try to put some distance between my home life and my work life.
Martina Lennon said her shed office has helped her focus more on her work when at home
‘I have two small children who were both off school during the lockdown and I found that I was moving around the house if I had to take calls or attend client meetings and it was just so awkward. Now I have my own space I’m so much more productive.’
She built the pink timber cabin herself, with the help of her husband and father, after it arrived flat packed. Between them it took four days to install not including sanding and painting.
However, as she purchased and built it without assistance, the price was much cheaper than some, coming to a total of €2,158 including the cost of hiring an electrician to wire it up.
Jane Williams transformed the stone outhouse in her garden into an office last year
Meanwhile, Jane Williams, a public relations officer from Rutland, also transformed the stone outhouse in her garden into a home office ahead of going freelance in September 2019.
She said: ‘At this stage in my life I didn’t want to work for anyone else and wanted more flexibility so becoming self-employed was an obvious next step.
‘My cottage, though cute, is tiny – two up, two down – so I needed a designated work space and it’s great discipline to ‘go to work’ each morning albeit 15 or so yards from the kitchen door.’
The construction of the shoffice took about two months with one builder who turned what was a damp stone building with a cement floor into a fully-insulated, plaster-boarded office.
Jane said: ‘My lovely neighbour sorted out all the electrics and broadband for me, and I did the decorating more or less myself.’
Choosing the right office
When choosing the right shed office for you, what material it will be made of is one of the first decisions to make.
Many shoffices are wooden sheds, although it is possible to get brick, stone, plastic and composite wood versions.
Wood composite can be a good option for those who wish to have less maintenance as it will not need as regular cleaning.
For those who have a wooden office, the base on which it will be built is very important.
Jude advises that you should never build a wooden building on a lawn as it would rot and sink.
She said: ‘A wooden office should always go on a paved base, concrete pad or decked base as it has to be on a solid, level base.’
It may be that those interested will have to work on the base for their office before they can even think about installing the office itself. A concrete base is usually the most popular option.
Those with wooden shed offices will also have to consider the maintenance required as the outside will likely need to be repainted and retreated regularly.
Hayley McDonnell, from Cheshire, was fortunate enough to inherit a shed office when she moved house. Hayley usually works from home but her husband, who runs a law firm, is now also working from home so the extra space is ideal. It comes with underfloor heating and a they can fit in two desks, two monitors, a printer, a bookshelf and a lot of boxes with files in.
It is advised that this should be done every three to five years to keep the building in the best possible condition.
Another consideration is the size of the office and what your garden will be able to comfortably fit.
Many firms will offer custom designs if you have an awkward space and need something made bespoke.
How you will install your office is also an important consideration. While customers can choose to assemble shoffices themselves, most companies will offer to build the outhouses but this is likely to come at an extra cost.
Many will also offer to help with the electrics needed in the shed office. This is essential as those using the shed office will need lighting and heating.
A stable WiFi connection is also important. Many households will be able to use their home WiFi if it reaches to the outhouse but if not a booster can be purchased or an additional line can be added by an electrician to the house.
‘We installed a log cabin in place of a rotting shed’
Joanna Thornhill, an interior stylists and writer based in London, built a log cabin in her back garden in order to run her business from.
She said: ‘Having always worked from home out of our boxroom, I was increasingly feeling a sense of “cabin fever” and a desire to go to work in order to foster more of a sense of differentiation between home and work.
Joanna Thornhill, an interior designer, built a log cabin in her back garden
‘We had a rotting shed at the back of our garden which needed replacing so we decided to bite the bullet and install a log cabin in its place, to act as my home office as well as little garden retreat.’
Joanna purchased the cabin as a read-to-build kit, opting for upgrades in certain areas such as thickness of timber and double glazing over single to ensure it was warmer in winter.
‘We also paid extra for pressure-treated timber, meaning the structure has a ten year guarantee against weather damage which was especially useful as the space around the sides and back is close to the fence, meaning regular retreating would be tricky.
She purchased the cabin as a read-to-build kit, opting for upgrades in certain areas
‘For aesthetics, we then finished it off with an outdoor-appropriate paint.’
Fortunately, as the cabin is under 2.5metre tall and isn’t classed as a ‘dwelling’ due to it having no plumbing facilities, it didn’t require any planning permission and is classed as permitted development.
Overall, the cost of building the cabin, including the double glazing was around £3,000.
Conservatories vs shoffices
Having a shed office built in your garden is an alternative to having a conservatory built on the side of your house.
For some, having an extension built on the side of their house will be the best option as they may want the room connected to the rest of their home.
However, for those who simply want their own space and have the garden capacity, a shed office could be the better option.
The two options tend to cost a similar amount, ranging in the tens of thousands, but for those on a budget, it is possible to build a shoffice for much cheaper if you are willing to do the bulk of the work yourself.
Having a shed office built is usually much quicker than a conservatory, taking a couple of days compared to a couple of weeks.
It will also leave minimal disruption to the rest of your house, while having a conservatory will more likely mean you will have to deal with builders in and out for a number of weeks – although some will have adequate garden access.
In many cases it could mean avoiding planning permission whereas you will always need this for a conservatory – but it is best to check, especially if you go for brick over wood.
Another consideration is insulation: conservatories are often too cold in the winter, and too hot in the summer, thanks to the roof. It is likely that shoffices will also suffer from the same problem.
Philip Cox, from Cambridgeshire, makes fused glass jewellery and glass home decor pieces and had his office built prior to lockdown. Philip, 44, said: ‘All the wood, insulation, plasterboards and bricks all came from eco-friendly sources. The roof is a rubber roof that is also eco friendly and has a 20 year lifespan. With everything, it came to around £3,900.’