Thursday, 27 May 2010

An alluring case for a flexible, shedshaped working future

As many of my readers are parents who work from home in some form or another, here’s a slight diversion from my usual posts – a book review about shedworking! If you’ve ever thought of working from a shed in your garden (or even if you haven’t), this book will have you longing for one.

Shedworking: The alternative workplace revolution claims to be inspirational, and it certainly is that. It’s also alluring. Apart from the beautiful and story-rich photographs, the allure for me lies in the way Johnson combines both physical buildings and work-life theory in his vision of a “shedshaped” future.

In using ‘shedworking’ as a theoretical concept, Alex Johnson engages with social and economic debates to promote the benefits of a flexible working environment on the grounds of increased productivity, better work-life balance and environmentalism. He claims that the future of working is “shedshaped”, that more and more people are going to be turning towards “shoffices” and “shudios” as their workplaces of choice.
The text is peppered with Johnson’s characteristic humour and stories of extraordinary shedworkers. I took great personal delight in his references to the likes of Alice Walker, Jeanette Winterson, and of course, Virginia Woolf. For others, there’s 007 and descriptions of OMD’s immobile lorry office are reminiscent of the original Knight Rider.
Drawing on Woolf, Johnson suggests that it is the thought of “an office of one’s own” that is at the heart of the shedworking appeal: a workspace where people have the flexibility to exercise personal choice over when and how they work, and in how it’s decorated too.
Shedworking also provides pages of information on how to go about buying or even building your own shed (or somewhat grander garden office), with details for suppliers and the legal bits too. It is at once a practical resource, a coffee table delight and a lightly cajoling philosophical debate about our future working lives.

My 10 year old peered curiously over my shoulder while I was reading, and displayed a reasonable level of interest: what was the book about? She laughed in disbelief: “They’re not sheds. You don’t use sheds! Sheds are just for storing things in.” She looked at me, and then smiled. “Oh mum,” she sighed, “you want a shed now, don’t you?”

More details about the book can be found at

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