Cropping up at the bottom of gardens up and down the UK is the latest trend among the country’s home workers – the “shoffice”, an office in a shed.
After more than a year working from kitchen tables, sofas or spare bedrooms, many Britons are looking to carve out a quiet workspace in the loft or in their garden.
Jules Carluccio, who works in local government, is one of the millions of workers who has not been back to her usual workplace since last spring.
In anticipation of permanent home working she decided to splash out on a “shoffice”.
The new workspace in her Bedfordshire garden is much more than a humble garden shed. At more than 8 sq metres, the wood, metal and glass structure comes complete with a canopied seating area and mains electricity. It did not come cheap at £17,500.
“It was a big [financial] commitment, but I weighed it up,” Carluccio said. “I looked at how long I would be staying at the property, how long I would be in my job, and also the kinds of uses I wanted from it.”
More than a third (38%) of UK workers worked from home in mid-May, accordingto data from the Office for National Statistics.
Few office-based staff expect to go back to their desk for five days a week.
Earlier this month, the accountancy firm EY became the latest company to tell employees they will be expected to work from home for at least two days a week, even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted. Its 17,000 staff will move to a “hybrid working model”, combining home working with the office, as well as client visits.
Many other large office occupiers plan to adopt hybrid working, to cut office costs as much as pleasing staff.
These staff need somewhere to work on the days when they are not required to be at their desk.
The booming demand for home offices pushed the company Smart Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios to its best-ever month in April, when it notched up £750,000 of sales, more than double its monthly average.
Since reopening last May, the Suffolk-based firm has scarcely been able to build its garden offices quickly enough to keep up with demand, despite taking on a third more staff.
Its managing director, Matt Moss, said: “People don’t spend £20,000 on a garden room on a whim, thinking I might be able to work from home going forward. People are committed to this.”
“Our level of enquiries amazes us every single day; that it is so consistent,” he said, adding that “shoffices” usually do not require planning permission.
The trend is being repeated elsewhere. Sales of garden buildings rocketed by 500% between January and May, compared with a year earlier, while sales of sheds soared by more than 460%, according to the DIY and building supplies retailer Toolstation.
Workers’ desire to create an office away from the office is also inspiring some to move upstairs. On England’s south coast, the Brighton Loft Company has had an 80% increase in inquiries during the pandemic, which its owner, Gilles Buxton, ascribes to demand for home offices.