The growth in home-based working in the UK covers a wide
range of spaces in which people work: from being hunched over
the kitchen table with a laptop through to purpose-built
One increasingly popular method of working from home is to
have a garden office. It appeals both to self-employed
people running their own business and to employees enabled by
their companies to work from home.
The advantages are the same as for for home working generally
- to get more done, to cut the cost of commuting, have an
improved work-life balance and to reduce the cost of having a
completely separate place to work.
The advantages of having the homeworking space in the garden
rather than inside the home are basically threefold:
- to have a bit more space to work, and possibly accommodate
- to reduce distractions arising from the domestic
environment when you want to work
- to have a more professional environment in which to
receive visitors and hold meetings.
Case study - a garden office for two
A Senior Civil Servant and a Local Government Officer have
found that having a garden office is the best solution. The
office built in their garden has increased their productivity as
employees, given them the flexible work/life balance they
sought, and given their employers opportunities to make
efficiency savings in central office costs.
Both Tony Redpath and his wife Katy Willison work in the
public sector in central London but live in the suburbs near
Wimbledon. Katy is a Senior Civil Servant, while Tony is a
Senior Local Government Officer for the Royal Borough of
Kensington and Chelsea. They have two children, a daughter aged
four and a young son of 10 months.
Expanding without moving
It was the arrival of the second child which put a squeeze on
the household space, and made both Tony and Katy decide that
something had to change. As Tony says, they are “fussy” about
the types of houses they like, and really enjoy both their
existing home and the area it is in. Before their son was born
they had a spare room in the house which they used as an office.
However with two children they wanted to turn that space over to
After going to view bigger houses on sale, and analysing not
only the costs but the aggravation and stress of moving, Tony
and Katy decided that the best option was to upgrade their
existing house by adding a personal office in the garden. They
also felt that the costs of buying a personal office could be
offset by the increased asset value it would give their
The solution they chose was a Henley Office, which was built
in a day complete with all the fittings.
Their garden office has proved itself to be a much better
working environment than being in the house, and even than their
employers’ main offices. Not only does it avoid background noise
from the children and other domestic distractions, it also feels
much more conducive to work.
According to Tony, he is much more productive in his new
“Now I have a garden office I feel that my productivity has
significantly increased. These days if I have a project to
complete I actually prefer to work from my garden office
than from my employer’s premises, as I get much more done from
an environment that is so conducive to concentration. All
this, and it looks great in the garden as well.”
Both the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the
Central Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have policies to
support the growth of flexible working, and will provide
equipment from computers to telephone lines for people who
choose to work from home.
Both appear to have recognised the advantages of this for
staff recruitment and retention, and are responding to employees
who are getting more demanding about finding the work/life
balance which suits their other commitments as well.
According to Nick Hopewell Smith of Henley Offices, garden
offices should appeal to both employers and employees:
"Employers who are concerned about employees seeking
home-based working because of family/work-life balance
criteria are reassured that there is a dedicated space where
interruptions and temptations are kept to a minimum. With
proven solutions like ours, large organisations with stringent
health and safety standards have no need to conduct a
pre-installation check of the home, since the size,
construction and security features of the Henley are 'known'
to their facilities management people.
"Employees who are resistant to home-working are frequently
concerned at their ability to concentrate on work within their
own domestic environment, while partners and other family
members frequently resent the intrusion of work within the
family living space. Garden offices get around these