I’ve written the introduction to this blog post a couple of times already, and it keeps coming out a bit too much ‘British man goes on stereotypical tirade about the weather’ for my liking.
So, I am going to avoid that happening again by stating the facts as they are without emotion.
Weather in the UK is inconsistent. Often clouds and rain. Less sunshine than we would like.
And that’s my comprehensive summary of the British climate complete.
I can report though, that now, as it does the same time each year, the sun is rising into the sky earlier, flowers are in bloom and butterflies are fluttering freely through the air… summer is on its way.
This means that many of us will now be squeezing the dregs of last year’s lotion out of the sun cream bottle, blowing the dust off our shades and burying our hands into the depths of our bedroom drawers in the hope of unearthing one of our few pairs of shorts.
It may also mean, with crossed fingers held towards the sky, that we are beginning to evaluate our options when it comes to working alfresco.
I have done this!
Having moved into my new place just weeks before the first lockdown, I began thinking about this during the winter.
I had to build an indoor working set up, as a lot of us did… therefore surely, I should have an outdoor one too?
Why work outside though?
The real question is, how long have you got to listen to me list all the benefits?
Boosted energy levels, reduction of stress, increased creativity, better mood, improved concentration… just to name a few. Not to forget all that vitamin D!
What is stopping you then? Well, there are practical and environmental obstacles that need to be overcome in order for you to achieve peak outdoor working excellence.
I am going to list those obstacles here and provide you with ways to overcome each…
It can be easy to taint your opinion of outdoor working.
If you have ever just picked up your laptop and headed out the door, you may have just made mistake numero uno.
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Right at the start line of this working from home journey, physical discomfort during office hours was all too common for some.
Common complaints included the makeshift office chair causing back pain as you arch forward for hours and your neck creaking in anguish every time you look down whilst towering above your screen sitting on your lap.
Hopefully, if you are still working at home, you have ironed out these problems by now.
However, unless these fixes are portable, you will be leaving them behind and potentially going headfirst back into all your previous issues for the sake of a few hours of fresh air and sunshine… you may also be doing this at the expense of your productivity and the quality of your work.
Key to a killer outdoor setup is to not forget the one that exists within your walls and under your roof.
My opinion is that if you have somewhere to sit, which is comfortable to the extent that you would happily sit on it for hours doing nothing, a table, which reaches chest height when sat down, and also that you are not restricted by cables… you should have the foundation of a quality setup.
If you are sat on a chair built for practicality rather than user experience, using a table small enough to comfortably rest your legs on, and in a straitjacket of short charger cables that restricts your mobility… you need to rethink.
This feeds on from my previous point, however this time we need to think about how your setup needs to enable you to work for a prolonged period of time.
Therefore, let me make two key recommendations that will make this possible.
First, weatherproof extension lead – remember weather in the UK is inconsistent. Gets rid of the cable restriction issue I discussed above. Especially helpful if you are working in your garden.
Another option is a portable battery pack, which is preferred by many as you can then up and go wherever you want, knowing how much power you will have in both the laptop and the extra pack, not relying on a plug and socket.
The Dangers of the Sun
I am not exploring anything ground-breaking with this obstacle… but it is a crucial reminder.
Whilst, as we discussed in the introduction, getting fresh air in your lungs is hugely beneficial. Spending hours in direct scorching sunlight can be extremely dangerous.
It can be hugely damaging and harmful to your skin, and it can also cause you to feel incredibly unwell, especially if you have not been keeping hydrated.
Remember to regularly apply sun cream and to spend time in shaded areas when necessary. If your coiffure exposes some scalp then also consider a hat.
Also, another tip if you are super serious about building an outdoor office space… grab yourself a cool box to stash with cool drinks and refreshments.
Mine contains several dozen ice pops with flavours for every mood and occasion.
If you search for ways to resolve the issue of sunlight making your laptop screen completely unclear… you can end up spending a lot of money when you really do not need to.
With this in mind, I did some digging and discovered a cost-effective way of stopping this visibility issue, whilst also helping you remain organised.
This purchase that made me feel like a certified genius from the moment I made the payment… I bought a storage box.
May seem like an anti-climax there… you possibly were expecting something cool-sounding.
However, having now used the box for a few weeks, I can confirm it is worth every penny and more.
Firstly, it is a storage box, so serves a purpose of storing things, such as laptop, headphones, cables, notepads etc.
However, once the lid is removed and it is turned on its side, you have yourself a laptop tent. A sheltered area in which you can place your device and have hours of squinting-free work fun!
Important disclaimer… do not buy a see-through box.
Depending on the dimensions of your laptop, you could be even more industrious and grab a shoe box and do the same.
I AM TELLING YOU. IT IS A GAME CHANGER.
If you grew up with siblings, there is a huge chance that you will relate to this.
Take yourself back to when you were a child, and you pushed all the dining chairs into the middle of the living room and grabbed the duvet off the bed.
If you don’t know already, this is the recipe for a top-notch fort.
One of the biggest fears, once you had put together your masterpiece, was that one of your siblings would join in on the fun and destroy all your hard work… whether intentionally or by accident.
The same fear applies here.
You have just established your work fort, a perfect place for you to concentrate and get stuff done, and suddenly people appear, invading your space and distracting you from the tasks at hand.
Destroying all your effort.
I have some advice.
When you are online and do not want to receive messages, you can set yourself as Do Not Disturb. There is an in-person equivalent to this though… headphones!
Headphones are magical. They are technology’s answer to sticking your fingers into your ears. You also don’t even need to plug them into anything. You can just put them on and tuck the jack into your pocket.
Just by doing this, you will have established your demand for focus.
Alternatively, if these people who are distractions are loved ones that live with you, you could always just y’know… talk to them and explain your need for peace.
The headphone thing is much more fun though.
People are not the only distractions that exist. There is a whole world of potential distractions out there.
Animals running around, vehicles passing by, a sudden breeze that audibly shakes the shrubbery around you.
I think the greatest piece of advice I can give for these distractions is to embrace them. These are the reasons why you are outside in the first place.
Notice what is happening around you and let it wash over and relax you. The nature-based ‘distractions’ in fact are proven to improve your cognitive functions.
So, appreciate them, and know that they are all advantages of having your outdoor office.
Alex & The Excel Team
P.S. If you would like to discuss any of your learning & development challenges for 2021, call us on +44(0) 1628488 854.
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