Desk Potato Nation

Experts agree that taking breaks outdoors, preferably in the sun, is the best way to keep productive.

Many research studies, including the well-known Whitehall 2 study, have demonstrated the benefits for the 8 million plus self-employed freelancers or home business owners taking effective breaks.

Many city or home business desk-jockeys such as John Warburton from JWCPR and thousands of others admit they spend far too much time glued to their home office screen.

So with the last of the Indian summer sun and the question on our lips - are we becoming a desk-potato nation? - iHubbub urges all Brit Home Businesses to create an outdoor area that gives them pleasure to unwind all year round as the gorgeous image below shows. Award winning garden designer Kate Gould created this garden for one of her clients. Image copyright Peter Baistow.


Award winning garden designer, Kate Gould shows how you can create a tranquil garden patio


Countless experts have discovered positive links between time spent outdoors and cognitive, physical, and emotional development and even giving your immune system a boost.

You don’t need to turn off your computer to tune out of the small start-up business buzz. All you need to do is step outside for a few minutes. Imagine this setting: birds chirping in the trees, a soft breeze blowing tendrils of hair of your face (or in my case tugging at my curls), the smell of roses winding up your pergola. Smacks of an idyllic half an hour in your garden … puur-fect relaxation.

And when you’re out there, be sure to not think of your home office issues. Instead, watch out for a butterfly flittering across your plants or examine the textures of different foliage on your patio plants. Check if your trees are fruiting – we’ve had no apples this year, but our almond is going nuts. If you have a pond - listen for frogs or a dragon fly’s leg-rubs and birds flapping about in the trees. I know it all sounds so airy-fairy, but it really does helps you to slip into a relaxed state.

Practice Makes Perfect

As for me, I know I have to practice what I preach. Many a time I have sat on our patio and looked right through our Honey Bamboo’s leaves and not even seen them and instead in my mind’s eye I see images of development that is taking place behind the iHubbub scenes. Not good!

Learning to relax when you work from home doesn’t come easy. It’s hard to know when to take a break or keep your head down says Neil Bromage freelancer for The Times, Telegraph and Financial Mail on Sunday, and author of 100 Ways to Make Your Business A success.

He asks the all-important question “How do you stay focused when your work place is also your home?” And he quickly answers with a strong: Build relaxation into your day!

How do you stay focused when your work place is also your home?

Being a self-confessed laptop-addict, I am constantly hustled out of my spare room office and into the sun for more breaks by Ken, Co Founder of iHubbub.

As an ex-South African sun-goddess, I simply can’t see how I could have become such a desk-potato! Mostly, like thousands of home business owners, I am in need of ‘plensch’ rest and relaxation (she says writing this at 3am) so I want to be the first to jump up and urge all Brit Home Businesses to create an outdoor area that gives them pleasure to unwind.

Like Neil, home business owners know the advantage of being able to get out at any time of the day. On the whole Ken and I love going for a walk and getting away from the email-noise of our home office.

Point Your Hood South

We often pop outside for coffee on the garden bench or sit inside the arbour with our resident Vine [aka Vinny] determined to reach out and latch his prolific little tentacles into our hair.

In his blog Nate Klemp, a professor at Pepperdine University, talks of how break taking is not only good for our souls but exceptional for productivity and work. He advocates that if your mind is well rested, you can do four hours’ worth of work in just one hour. If your mind is tired, even the most trivial tasks take significant time and effort.

Nate suggests that if you master the art of break taking, you can maximize productivity and minimize the strain of work. His four types of breaks are micro-breaking, mental rebooting, sunset breaks and macro breaks – all of which will render powerful results to refresh and reenergise the overworked home business mind.

Business start-ups without a network of resources, often worry about taking a long break or week’s holiday because “OMG, who will run my business while I am away”.  Some even fear being away from their business will cause them to miss a deadline or lose a contract or new business client.


Ann Hobbs life coachHealth and Empowerment Coach, Ann Hobbs says

Sitting in the wrong position can result in tight neck and shoulders, restricting the blood flow around the body, causing stress and tiredness.

Finding a work-free space on regular breaks outdoors enhances our productivity levels and diminishes the symptoms of stress.

Cue the short break or long weekend. Like many home business owners, we try to get away for a long weekend or even just jump in the car on a Saturday, point the hood south and come home on Sunday night … totally-chilled-man.

Friends and family probably see us more with this approach. And for us, we end up totally relaxed, away from the laptop’s lure, disconnected from the permanent mobile connection and with more bandwidth to our names because there is no broadband to be had.

We come home inspired and motivated to go at it harder and faster than even before – although the glut of emails in our inboxes after a few days away is hard to swallow.

Bubble Away

But with the time away you will end up finding solutions. I often just pop them into my ‘bubbling pot’ upstairs and leave it be until an illumination emerges. And of course, as Nate suggests, the most beneficial point of the short-long weekend break is to spend time with family and friends, to explore new activities and new places, and most of all - to have fun.

That said, there’s something strange about this breed of start-up entrepreneurs who struggle to switch off from digital working life. We must resist the lure to check one quick email or look at one last online link before taking a break otherwise time melts away and the break never comes. I know this only too well!

While working for oneself can often be classed as stressful because of the need to be sure there is food on the table or a roof over the family’s head, it is also the preferred lifestyle of millions the world over.

Kate Gould shows how you can create a tranquil secret nook for a quiet moment away from your home officeAward winning garden designer, Kate Gould writes for the Guardian and exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Find a warm spot where you can appreciate light in the garden and where this light is bound to entice you outside. In late summer  as the sun gets lower it has a magical feel and is a perfect partner to late season grasses and perennials which are often encased in a golden halo.


With all this in mind, how do you go about arranging your garden to enjoy regular pop out breaks and ensure a stress-free haven? For you to create a regular retreat through creativity, imagination and time use a combination of your garden’s assets, the surrounding wildlife and what you have in the way of patio or outdoor furniture.

Size Doesn't Matter

Whether your garden is small or big, it is fairly easy and inexpensive to create an outdoor living space that can be used throughout the year.  Ken and I started working on our sunken outdoor patio in the dead of winter a year or so ago. We slaved in bitter winds, digging out the frozen sodden soil, only because we drooled in anticipation of the huge satisfaction we would gain from sipping a cuppa in the first spring sunshine.

Plants and trees provide breathable air and of course food and shelter for our little flying friends or creepy crawlies – not that we want to share our sun trap with them.

Remembering that Plato and Aristotle did their best thinking in the olive groves around Athens and Buddha found enlightenment beneath a bo tree, we should all venture out to sit under our ‘thinkers’, especially when we are taxed with small business challenges or home office juggling.

Who knows you may be like Isaac Newton, who grasped his theory of gravity when an apple fell from the tree, and you may get your next light bulb moment under your favourite tree!

If you want to create a fab looking patio for your break away, try reshaping or redesigning an area that is not working for you or that doesn’t get much coffee break time. The simplest way is shifting around patio furniture to create a new environment.

Or you can go one further and have a talented designer like Kate create an all year round outdoor living area as she shows us below, image copyright Peter Baistow.

Award winning garden designer, Kate Gould shows how you can create a tranquil garden patio

An contributor suggests that you consider how the space is currently used and then find ways to promote easy conversation and an inviting feeling. You may want to keep your favourite book or magazine handy and accessorize with lighting, floor coverings and pillows. Our break away spots are always decorated with heaps of different plants to give greenery, privacy and essentially a cozy nook feeling.

We all know the benefits of fresh air, but if you need to be reminded, follow these outdoor break-away tips on your breaks or when you need to banish that tired, sluggish feeling.

When someone came up with the slogan ‘ a breath of fresh air’ to describe someone bringing inspiration and new stimulus to a meeting or project, they had clearly experienced the change of brain levels of serotonin, which of course helps to improve your mood and promote a sense of happiness and well-being.

Taking a garden break can leave you nap-ish?

So, not only to relax with something different to look at, a garden break will give you a healthy dose of fresh air, clear the proverbial cobwebs, improve concentration and help you think more clearly.

Some home workers have reported that taking a garden break leaves them feeling  nap-ish. The reason for this is that when the sun hits your skin it manufactures vitamin D in your body and then works as a great natural aid to calcium absorption.

Insomnia Sun

Sunlight is one of the greatest sleep inducers because calcium soothes the nervous system, so anyone suffering from insomnia or sleeplessness will get a huge kick out of spending a daily hour in the fresh air and sunlight.

As a keen gardener I know that after a day’s potting and poking amongst the garden beds I always sleep better at night … and of course the evening ends on a high because I am completely relaxed and ready for a glass (or jug) of wine.

Experts on garden planning and design, the Society of Garden Designers may be able to help and advise you on what to do with your garden space and how to be sure you maximise productivity in your home office day with regular break-outs into your garden.

iHubbub is so passionate about helping home business owners and home workers to be successful that we have now set up a gallery for everyone to share their images of their ‘special’ break out place.

Tim Reid from Urban Wilderness encourages home business owners to get outdoorsChartered Landscape Architect, Tim Reid from Urban Wilderness believes the critical issue is making the transition from inside to outside space an easy, alluring and ultimately satisfying experience.

If there are too many doors or stairs blocking your route or maybe a wind-swept terrace and only some concrete paving and a plastic seat to entice you, you'll just say to yourself, "Hey, I'll stay at my desk. At least I'll be warm ..."

Green is the colour most associated with relaxation and is believed to be the colour most easily assimilated by the human eye so our brains react positively to the colour. It is therefore a wonderful way to calm the mind and energise the body.

Your outside space is therefore crucial to your enjoyment and productivity. All you need is proximity to a little sunshine and a sense of the “great outdoors” – a roof garden, a balcony, a small terrace, even the sight of a city park. These are enough to transport you to another place, re-motivate and reconnect you with the outside world.

Do you have lovely peaceful and calm spot under the trees? Or do you fancy sipping tea in a suntrap? Maybe you prefer rummaging behind the shed with music blaring. Whatever tickles your coffee break fancy, please do share it with us by posting your images in our new gallery.

If as Tim suggests, you have a roof garden, such as the one seen in our home business exteriors photo gallery, why not share it with iHubbub's home business network. We'd love to see all your outdoor spots and urban wilderness green rooms!

To be productive, healthier and happier, your daily prescription is taking regular breaks.

Kate designed this secret space for one of her clients, showing how a stunning array of plants gives oodles of privacy along with colour and lovely smells while on your break.

Although ... with this beautiful setting you probably wouldn't get any work done!


Kate Gould shows how you can create a tranquil secret nook for a quiet moment away from your home office



Allergy UK estimates that at least 5.7 million people could be allergic to their workplace. Their survey showed that 42% of allergy sufferers took time off work because of their allergy.

These could be anything from from nasal problems, eye conditions, dry throats, breathing difficulties, lethargy, headaches and skin irritations – and 42% of allergy sufferers took time off work because of their allergy.

So you’re better off working from home! And taking the time to get some fresh air and any rays of sun to boost your home business productivity ...

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