The 5 Questions I get about my Outdoor Office Setup
Working outdoors has been amazing for my productivity, if you follow these tips it could work for you too
Since the beginning of the pandemic last Spring, I have turned my backyard into my outdoor home office. There are two real reasons for this.
I live in a relatively small home.
It’s not an official tiny home or anything, but it’s a cozy bungalow that makes great use of the space it has, without much space to spare. My small home is shared with my wife, our 1-year old daughter, dog, and cat. Throw in our daughter’s nanny being home with us during the day, and we have a pretty full house. Our office space was turned into a nursery when our daughter was born, and my wife was able to repurpose a corner of our bedroom for her own workspace. This didn’t leave me many comfortable work areas indoors.
I really love being outside
Popping into the backyard to take a meeting in peace was a necessity at first. But as we settled into the new norms of pandemic life, I started to just relish being outdoors while I worked. Even when there was space or quiet inside the house, I found myself headed for the backyard to get work done. We’re lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where we don’t get a ton of extreme weather. So I realize the outdoor office may not fly in your climate. But you’d be surprised at what your body can handle when you’re focused on work and paying less attention to the elements.
While this setup works perfectly for me. I do get a lot of questions from people when they hear that I conduct all of my work in an outdoor environment. Let’s take a look at the 5 questions I get about my outdoor office setup
- Do you have a desk? What is your setup?
I have been a long-time standing desk devotee. I’ve had fancy ones, I’ve had makeshift Ikea ones. So naturally, I wanted a standing desk setup in my backyard. I found this fantastic mobile work cart that really fits all my needs. It’s adjustable, has wheels that lock into place when needed, and has plenty of storage space for computer accessories. I usually have my laptop perched on this stand along with a trackpad and keyboard. I’ve always been a fan of a single-monitor setup, so I don’t miss having my laptop tethered to a second screen. Less is more with this setup.
2. What do you do when the weather doesn’t cooperate?
A fair question that thankfully doesn’t come up very often in Northern California. If you’re going to do the outdoor office setup, your biggest obstacle is the sun. I have a large, adjustable umbrella that I’m able to re-position throughout the day in order to cut down on glare. I’m also lucky enough to have a garage and neighbor’s houses to give me some shade. Unfortunately, we haven’t had much rain this past year, but the umbrella covers me (literally) in that area as well.
Our moderate temperatures make this much more enjoyable too. But there have been some really warm days where my laptop doesn’t sound happy to be outdoors. And there are those chilly mornings where my purchase of a pair of NorthFace e-Tip touchscreen-compatible gloves come in very handy. Note that many gloves have touchscreen support in the thumb and pointer, but not many have it in all 5 fingers like these gloves. The 5-finger functionality is vital for me to use gestures on my trackpad.
3. Do you look crazy on video calls?
Maybe sometimes? It’s actually an amazing ice breaker when you’re on a video call with someone for the first time. “Yes, I am actually outside, no this isn’t a Zoom background!” Maybe this is more of an issue if you’re having formal business calls with people in boardrooms and suits. Fortunately, that isn’t the world I live in. Most people seem genuinely curious/jealous of my backyard setup. It is important to have a decent backdrop for video calls whether you’re indoors or outdoors. I’m lucky enough to have a fence at the back of my yard that has star jasmine growing on it. While it isn’t flowering all year, it’s still nice to have a green, living backdrop. But even the plain wood fence behind me is fine. I’d take it any day over the cliche “credibility bookcase”.
4. Does your internet work out there?
My internet does work very well! A poor internet connection can really derail your backyard office setup. I can share some details for those who care about internet tech. At our home, we are lucky enough to a Symmetrical Gigabit Fiber connection (meaning both 1Gb download speeds and upload speeds). This is plenty of bandwidth to handle pretty much anything I need to do.
Now, in terms of our home Wi-Fi setup, we use Netgear’s Orbi Wi-Fi 6 System. I was a fan of Google Wi-Fi for many years but decided to upgrade to take advantage of Wi-Fi 6 on the Orbi system. There are plenty of good mesh systems out there, you can choose for yourself. But I do make sure to position the Orbi satellite closest to the window that faces my backyard. That way, I have a direct line-of-site to the device and I have zero connection issues even being pretty far away from the main router.
5. How does your audio sound on calls? Is there wind? Bird Sounds?
My audio is generally good. I go back and forth between wearing noise-canceling Bose Headphones or the more svelte-looking Jabra Elite Active 75t wireless earbuds. The microphones on each of them are really solid. I never have any concerns about people being unable to hear me.
When it comes to outdoor sounds, (planes, birds, dogs, neighbors) I use Krisp. I could go on and on about how amazing Krisp is (and I likely will soon) but for now, just know that it’s a piece of software that lives on your computer to block out excessive background noise on calls. It helps make you sound better, but can also improve the audio quality of the person you’re speaking with if they’re driving or in a noisy environment.
I know Bose is working on a similar software solution, I think this industry will be huge in the ongoing world of remote work. But for me, it’s a no-brainer to use something like this to improve my audio experience. I’d use it even in a quiet room inside. Anything to help audio communications be more frictionless.
So there you have it! These are the 5 questions I get asked most often about my outdoor office setup. Feel free to reach out if you have any additional questions or if you have a similar setup for yourself.