Shed life, then and whatever is next

Going into my little summer break I wrote a little list of things I was going to do. Even for such a little list in the end I did not much of it. For the first time in years I had a break where I did nothing work related. I didn’t reach out to anyone to talk about business life (and neither did they, because turns out they were off too). I didn’t pick up a single book about work, going for books about running and graphic novels. Any work related blog posts became lurking tabs in my browser for later. Work related podcasts? Avoided. I didn’t make a start on two pieces of writing I had in mind either.

One of those was about my shed life, having a shed for a home office. I’d have probably sat down for an hour, banged out a rough starter.

For the last five years I didn’t have to worry about running a sizeable company any more, just the one employee, me, and no need to have an office space. I worked “on site” for clients the vast majority of the time. It worked for me: I like being in the workplaces. Sure they didn’t quite feel as comfortable and comforting as my days in studios (man, I missed the background noise of 6 Music or an album someone put on) but you could get the work done with the people you worked with.

Two years on, about three years ago, a combination of working for a remote first team and starting to pick up a few smaller bits of consultancy work where I could work remotely made me look at my working from home arrangements. There wasn’t somewhere quiet and comfortable I could work at home, even one day a week. I’d considered renting a desk in a co-working space, at a friendly agency, that sort of thing. Browsing around Homebase I saw some sheds, I went into a shed, felt “this might be alright”, noted the measurements, but thought nothing more. A couple of weeks later I was clearing a compost area in the top corner of the garden and noticed it was the right width for a shed. Hmmm. I found one that seemed to be sturdy, cheap enough and had enough light coming in to not feel I was locked away. Ordered it. Put a base down. Made the shed. Put a table and chair in, voila MVP office. There’s a shot of it in its early days in this post.

That would have been the outline. I would then have added more detail, how the shed iterated. The shed got a power cable up to it, it was cold in winter so I added some cheap insulation (wool from Gousto boxes), got some shelves, moved in some books, hung a whiteboard. I might have dug up some pictures to include. But I never got round to writing the post.

But I was reminded when thinking about writing that post the intention was the shed was somewhere I worked in once in a while, not all the time. (And not some… man cave.)

For the last six months the shed has been my workplace, it has been where I spend the bulk of my waking week. There’s been some extraordinarily long days and weeks in there, me, sat at the same desk, looking at the same screen, in the same tight working environment. How bad are these conditions? Down the road from where I live there were mills, a reminder how bad that time in the shed felt people have worked in much worse conditions. I have the radio on most of the time. As long as I have the time for slightly longer lunch break I can walk for 15 minutes to the nearby park and back to clear my head and still have time to make my lunch and nibble it as I start work for the afternoon. Sometimes I even managed a run. But there have been times, stretches where I’ve just felt dulled, blunted and down. For all the connectivity digital provides it lists as the time I felt the most disconnected from the work I was doing.

Over summer I decided I couldn’t shed it all the time. I wanted to get back to places of work a bit more. I’d interviewed for some full time roles with the intention of being back in workplaces I fancied. Didn’t get any of the roles, mind. A couple of weeks back I started looking for a desk I could use elsewhere, even if it was once a week, maybe once a fortnight. A co-working space looked good. Maybe I could spend a morning or afternoon working from a cafe. The possibilities. If I was having video chats with people maybe do them away from the shed. Listening to/watching talks, same again. (Maybe drawing the line for both at not being on the toilet.)

Yesterday the government outlined plans for the immediate future, the escalation of Covid related sanctions. One was work from home wherever possible. That means putting my plans of working from somewhere else on ice. That means working from the shed again. Which filled me with dread, sitting there through the shortening and then short days. But for the dread at least I have somewhere quiet and reasonably comfortable to go and do my work, and I have work to do. People have one or neither of those. I can listen to BBC 6 Music most of the day. And I’ll make sure I feel more connected to the outside world and people more this time.

If you’re looking ahead to the coming months with a sense of dread at being cooped up, over the last six months I’ve been giving up half hour slots in my diary for others to say hi, catch up and maybe talk about a problem you’re facing. As the ad used to say it’s good to talk. You can book some time through my Calendly page or drop me a line another way.

Originally published at https://www.ermlikeyeah.com on September 23, 2020.

Written by

Independent strategist, designer and team builder. Previously: Agency land big cheese; Senior designer at HMRC, DWP, and NHS Jobs; Design lead on #NHSbeta.

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