Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Outdoor office

I tried a fun experiment last week: making an outdoor office and working outside.  I'm sure many others like me hate to be indoors all day when the weather is perfect outside.  I'd tried taking my laptop outside to work before, but ran into some issues.  With a little bit of effort though, I was able to make it work quite well and was able to spend most of my time out there for a week.  The advantages to working outside are pretty clear if you love the outdoors: fresh air, nice scenery, less stress, etc.  Here are some of the issues that I found needed some effort to make working outdoors work:

1) Weather.  Again, this is great when the weather is perfect.  Even when it cooled down a bit, I was fine wearing some fleece.  But don't leave your computer out there if it looks like rain!

2) Furniture.  When I tried this unsuccessfully in the past, I just took my laptop to our outdoor table and chairs. The ergonomics were bad, it was on a patio that was too hot... it just didn't work.  What did work is I had a spare simple rolling desk made of light weight metal and glass.  I rolled it out into the grass and the ergonomics were much better.  Sometimes I'd bring a keyboard and mouse to make it even better, sometimes I wouldn't.  Mine was light and small enough that I brought it in each night.  Since it was metal and glass, I think I could've kept it outside even.

3) Power and Wireless. So if you take special furniture outside, you'll want to put it somewhere where you get a good wireless signal.  Hopefully your router isn't too far from your back yard.  You may also want to be close to a power outlet if you want to stay out longer periods of time.  I just brought my laptop inside at lunch time to recharge.

4) Glare.  This is another factor in picking your location.  You'll probably want to be in the shade, if possible.  Since shade moves, I had to adjust my position a bit later in the day.

5) Bugs.  In Kansas City, summer is often too hot to be outside for a long time with no A/C, and conveniently that's when the mosquitoes are out anyway.  When the weather is nicer in spring and fall, there are far less mosquitoes, but still a few.  I used a bit of bug spray on my hands.

6) Wind. If you're totally paperless, then wind isn't a big issue, other than the occasional leaf particle falling in your keyboard.  If you need to use some papers, then you may need a paperweight some days.

That's really about it.  The only other issue is that if you enjoy it too much, then you may be a bit distracted and not get as much work done. But there are plenty of distractions inside as well, so I didn't find that to be too much of an issue.

If you try it, let me know how it went!