9 Tips for Creating a Functional Outdoor Workstation

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated July 7, 2022
A woman with short hair sitting at the terrace
Photo: krakenimages.com / Adobe Stock

You still have to answer emails, but at least you’ll be enjoying nature

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While work might be a bit of a chore, you can make the best of it by creating a relaxing and practical outdoor workspace. Surrounding yourself with nature and lots of natural light while working is great for your mind and body, and it boosts creativity and productivity. Plus, creating an outdoor workspace helps you enforce that old-school barrier between work and home that's important for our mental wellbeing. 

Luckily, you don't have to build an outdoor room or a dedicated outdoor office, either. With these helpful tips, you can easily create a productive, enjoyable outdoor office environment to work in during the warm-weather months.

1. Section Off a Space to Work

If you share your garden with kids, pets, or other people, start by sectioning off a space to work in private. Use screens, potted plants, or some other obvious, but not austere, boundary marker. 

Set yourself up for success by positioning your outdoor office where it makes the most sense. You’ll need to be close enough to your home to keep the Wi-Fi flowing smoothly, but far enough away to not sit in the main thoroughfare, where the kids, or the dog, video-bomb every Zoom meeting. Sectioning off your outdoor workstation helps everyone, including you, recognize when you're in work mode. 

2. Block Out Distractions

Do you get distracted easily while working from home? Working outdoors is a whole different ball game. If you live in a busy area or in close proximity to your neighbors, you’ll likely hear kids playing outside, traffic noise, and, of course, your dog attempting to play fetch while you’re answering emails.

So, it's important to recognize the potential distractions and work to block them out as much as possible. You may be able to soften some of the background noise, but if not, you can try using noise-canceling headphones. If movement is more of a distraction, try putting up lattice screens or a DIY privacy screen around your work space. This tactic helps minimize motion in your peripheral vision and gives you some privacy to get your work done.

3. Throw Shade on Your Outdoor Work Space

The sun’s glare on your laptop is no joke. You and your laptop need plenty of shade to work comfortably and efficiently, so avoid putting your outdoor office space in full sun. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from the harsh summer sun and add a retractable awning, a large garden umbrella, or a sun shade over your work station. To install an awning in your backyard, hire an awning contractor near you for a customized consultation. 

4. Create a Comfortable and Ergonomic Setup

Posture and comfort are just as important outside as indoors. If you made changes or purchases to support yourself while working from home, you should mimic them outdoors if you plan to spend more than a couple of hours a week in your garden workspace. 

Start by positioning your chairs and tables so that your arms are resting on the tabletop with your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees. Don’t forget to support your arms and back by relaxing your shoulders, and keeping your head between 18 and 24 inches away from your computer screen. 

Invest in comfortable patio furniture with padded, outdoor-rated fabrics and tables made of stained wood, metal, or resin built to withstand the elements. That way, you can enjoy working outdoors without ending the day with pain in your neck or back.

5. Prioritize the Proximity of Outlets

A man gripping power cord
Photo: Lost_in_the_Midwest / Adobe Stock

The last thing you want when working outdoors is to drag your laptop and other materials back inside every few hours to charge. However, if you don't have an outdoor-rated outlet extension, you’ll need to be close enough to an outlet to plug in your laptop charger when necessary. 

To solve this problem, you can invest in an outdoor-rated extension or install an outdoor outlet on the exterior wall of your property. The average cost to install an outdoor outlet is $225, depending on your home’s age and location. Keep in mind that your laptop's charger likely isn't weather-resistant, so keep it covered and away from moisture. 

6. Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal

Your Wi-Fi signal is the heart of any work-from-home operation. Weak or spotty signals are disastrous for meetings, online collaboration, or even just checking your email. So make sure your outdoor workspace is close enough to your Wi-Fi router to maintain a decent connection. If you don't want to move your outdoor workspace closer to the router, then install a Wi-Fi booster to keep your connection crystal clear.

7. Plan For Changes in the Weather

No matter where you live, the weather can take you by surprise, so it's a good idea to prepare for a sudden shower or uptick in the heat. 

Some simple weatherproofing tips include:

  • Keep papers in folders or weighted down on your workstation.

  • Use a waterproof canopy or overhead cover to protect your work space from the rain.

  • Keep a laptop cover close to hand in case it starts to rain

  • Keep your equipment to a minimum so it's easy to scoop everything up and dash indoors if needed.

  • Protect your patio furniture by storing cushions and pillows when not in use.

8. Reduce the Glare

Even indoors, working at a computer screen all day can strain your eyes, but outdoors, the sun’s glare increases the difficulty of focusing on your screen. So you'll likely strain your eyes more as you squint to see your screen, giving yourself a nasty headache and putting undue stress on your eyes.

There are two key options to combat the glare: A laptop sun shade that attaches to your laptop like a hood and an anti-glare screen protector that sticks to your laptop screen. For a more permanent fix, consider building a roofed structure like a screened-in porch or a gazebo that will allow you to work outside without having to duck from the sun’s rays. 

9. Add Climate Control Measures

 A backyard with a sitting area with table and chairs
Photo: Tibor Molnar / Adobe Stock

Sure, working outside in the sunshine with a gentle breeze sounds idyllic. But in reality, the ever-changing temperatures can make working conditions a bit tricky. So, you’ll need to give Mother Nature a helping hand to create that ideal work environment. 

Create a permanent breeze over your work station by installing an outdoor ceiling fan or patio fans. You can hire a local ceiling fan installer to get the job done quickly and seamlessly. 

If you want to extend your outdoor working season, add a patio heater or two that can keep you warm when the temperature starts to dip in the fall.

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