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How to Design a Functional Outdoor Office Space

Top view of laptop on table on balcony in summer, outdoors office concept

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a boom in remote work across the country. Today, more than 4.7 million workers in the U.S. work from home at least half of the time. While you can technically work anywhere in your home, it’s a good idea to have a separate office space for productivity.

Outdoor offices are becoming more popular options. Working outside can boost your creativity and make you more productive while keeping your stress levels lower.

But, having a functional outdoor office space is important. It can be much easier to get distracted outside, and you’re going to have to overcome a few challenges that you wouldn’t have to worry about indoors. Avoiding some key office design mistakes and having a plan in place will make your outdoor space both functional and personal.

So, how can you design an outdoor office space that fits your needs and allows you to work efficiently?

Use Multi-Purpose Furniture

new alternative lifestyle work in natural outdoor office near the ocean
new alternative lifestyle work in natural outdoor office near the ocean

The furniture and accessories you use are some of the most important components of your office design. A good rule of thumb is to have a separate “section” for your outdoor office. But, if you don’t have the space to do that, make your furniture multi-purpose.

For example, you may not be able to bring a traditional desk to your patio, but you can use a chat table paired with a sectional or sofa. Those pieces can then double up as places to relax and enjoy an evening outside when you throw your next barbecue. Your furniture should also be:

  • Weatherproof
  • Comfortable
  • Professional-looking
  • Clean
  • Lightweight

In addition to tables, chairs, and sofas, consider some of the practical pieces you might need. That includes an umbrella or some sort of shade for sun protection, and heating and cooling systems depending on the season. Outdoor heaters work wonders in the cooler months, and large misting fans can keep you cool and refreshed all summer. We’ll talk more about how to power those things later.

Remember, an outdoor office still needs to be a reflection of who you are. While you should have functional pieces, make sure you’re letting your personality shine through with decor. Try a few throw pillows and mix and match different patterns and colors to create an interesting background for video calls, and to inspire you each day.

Be Mindful of Distractions

It’s hard enough to stay focused in an indoor office. From getting tempted by social media to hearing your phone “ding” every five minutes, distractions are everywhere.

Outside, there are even more ways to lose focus. On top of the usual distractions, it’s hard to ignore the calming sounds, small wildlife that might show up in your backyard, nearby traffic, or changing weather.

You can choose to keep yourself more enclosed somewhere by setting up your office in a shed or garage. But, if you want to be out in the open, one way to minimize distractions is by choosing the right colors. Whether you want to change the color of your house, your patio, or just your furniture, certain colors can keep critters away, including:

  • Birds – They tend to avoid white and other dull colors
  • Bugs – They are deterred by blue or green
  • Mosquitos – Whites and yellows are more likely to keep them away

In addition to limiting distractions from wildlife, you can stay focused by setting up a routine for yourself. It can be incredibly relaxing to have an outdoor workspace, but you should still treat it as though you’re going into a professional office. Set working hours each day and try to start at the same time. Take breaks throughout the day to enjoy being outside, and make sure you get up and get moving as often as possible. The less you feel “forced” to sit in one place, the better your productivity will be.

Plan for Power

Outdoor work areas, workplace. Take office Outside, Work Moves Outdoors During Pandemic. Mobility,
Outdoor work areas, workplace. Take office Outside, Work Moves Outdoors During Pandemic. Mobility,

If you’re working outside, you’re probably going to have to get creative when it comes to your power source. At the very least, you’ll have to plug in your computer. You might also have to power lights, a fan, or other electronic devices that need charging throughout the day.

What’s the simplest solution? An extension cord.

It might sound a little too simple, but it could be one of the greatest investments you make for your outdoor office. Having an extension cord that runs from your home to your outdoor office will not only ensure you have adequate power, but it will give you the freedom to move around. You can design your office more functionally and practically, rather than being “stuck” in one place because your computer cord only reaches so far.

In addition to making sure you have enough power, make sure you’re giving your WiFi a boost. When you’re outside, you’re going to be further away from your wireless router. If you’re taking part in Zoom meetings or just need a strong connection, having a weak signal isn’t an option.

Consider using a WiFi extender that plugs into your electrical outlet, and you won’t have to worry about spotty connections.

Having an outdoor office space can make working from home that much better. Keep these design tips in might to create a functional area that will motivate you and allow you to enjoy what you do each day.

Guest blog post author: Sam Bowman

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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