Tired of those fuzzy video conference call backgrounds and working indoors? Maybe it’s time to move your office outside to your backyard.
“I have an outdoor office and enjoy working outside every day with my dog, Mutt Mulligan, nearby,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the TurfMutt Foundation, an environmental education and stewardship program that encourages outdoor living and caring for green spaces. Mulligan (“Mo-Mo”) is the TurfMutt spokesdog for the foundation.
With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping more Americans working at home, Kiser points out that outdoor offices offer a way to destress and enjoy nature while focusing on tasks at hand. Plus, it jazzes up those videoconference backgrounds.
Many companies also are recognizing the benefits of outdoor offices and are now adding outdoor office features to their corporate campuses, encouraging employees to meet and work outside.
The TurfMutt Foundation offers the following tips to help you keep your home outdoor office operational from fall into the winter months.
Decide where your outdoor office will be. Look for a comfortable spot that offers seating and shade from the sun. Consider noise, lighting and other needs as well.
Factor comfort into furnishings. Position a table or desk and seating that takes comfort and ergonomics into play, just as you would indoors.
Beef up Wi-Fi and make sure electrical outlets are reachable. Outdoor offices need power. Make sure your Wi-Fi signal strength is up to the task of outdoor videoconference calls or online work. Run outdoor-rated power cords or get additional outdoor power outlets installed.
Check your videoconference call background “look.” Use your computer camera to check your background before you are finished setting up. Adjust your seating location and look for the best effect.
Add portable heaters or a fire pit. Outdoor heaters or hydronic or electric radiant heat systems can extend your stay in your outdoor office.
Bring indoor comforts outside. Add pillows, curtains or lap blankets to your outdoor office. A warm rug can help, too.
Build a patio cover. A semi-enclosed space, such as a pergola, awning, gazebo or pavilion, can protect you — and your laptop — from the elements, making it easier to stay in your outdoor office longer. Side curtains on a pergola or gazebo add more protection (and cancel out nearby noise).
Warm up the space with lights. Lights make an outdoor space more inviting for a work session. It also gets darker earlier in the winter, so lighting can help extend your day. Some light sets are even equipped with an outlet, allowing you to charge your laptop.
Add speakers or use headphones. Nothing says great workspace like adding a little music. Headphones can tune out neighborhood noise and help with focus.
Tune up the fun. Keep the yard games like lawn darts or corn hole accessible nearby. After all, you might need to take a break from those calls with some recreation.
For more tips, sign up for Mutt Mail, a monthly e-newsletter with backyarding ideas and all the news from the TurfMutt Foundation. To learn more about creating the yard and outdoor office of your dreams, visit TurfMutt.com.
TurfMutt was created by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) TurfMutt Foundation and has reached more than 70 million children, educators and families since 2009. Through classroom materials developed with Scholastic, TurfMutt teaches students and teachers how to “save the planet, one yard at a time.” TurfMutt is an education resource at the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More information at TurfMutt.com.