backyard office

Toronto student starts business making backyard offices for all your work from home needs

Last year was undeniably the official year of working from home for those of us who were lucky enough to retain gainful employment over the course of COVID-19 lockdown, but what was once considered a treat — a rare day off from the actual office — proved to be a bit of a logistical nightmare for many when WFH became the norm.

For those not previously used to the lifestyle, finding a designated space in which to do one's job, as well as keeping working hours separated from the rest of home life, became quite the task, while taking Zoom calls from the couch and typing away on a laptop from bed slowly turned from a charming luxury into an annoyance.

The desperate need for some sort of designated workspace in a time where offices were shuttered became apparent, prompting some to turn to DIY solutions on their own, and others to step up to fill what was clearly a new void in the market.

University of Waterloo engineering student Charlie Frise, originally from Toronto, is one of the latter, turning his lifelong talent and passion for design and building into a way to help people create their own work-from-home office amid the health crisis.

The 21-year-old decided that during COVID, instead of doing a placement at an engineering firm as would be par the course during the co-op portion of his program, he wanted to work for himself.

Though he started his semester dabbling in e-commerce ventures, things didn't feel as fulfilling or fitting as he had hoped they would.

"I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit in me," Frise tells blogTO. "And I realized that I wasn't using my greatest skill, which is designing and building things; it's what I've been doing since I was a kid, it's what I go to school for."

Upon witnessing both of his parents working from various makeshift locations in their shared household during lockdown, an apt use of this skillset hit him: "I was thinking that a lot of people weren't ready for this switch and don't have the office to work from home," he says.

The ample space in his parents' GTA backyard lent itself perfectly to an office of some sort, and so Frise got to work designing a small, modular structure that he constructed largely off-site in his garage.

Though he didn't yet have a first client, posting his process to YouTube helped garner some attention. He has so far built a backyard bar and a backyard home office for two separate clients under what he hopes will become his new full-time company, Frise Design + Build.

The tiny builds are fully customized and collaborated on with the customer, take about two months to complete on a part-time basis, and run somewhere between $20k and $30k if equipped for all seasons with full electrical and other features.

And the spaces, though close to home and still on the homeowner's property, are separate enough to create the perfect answer to the current need.

"People need to divide their work from their life. I think when a lot of people moved [to working from home], the lines were blurred. You hear the laundry machine going, your kids are running around, the kitchen is begging for your attention," Frise says.

As things open up and we return to a new iteration of normal with the help of mass vaccination against the virus, companies are already planning what the future will look like for their employees and business operations.

Most appear to be considering a much more flexible, hybrid model than pre-COVID as far as physically being in a central office is concerned, meaning that demand for services like Frise's will likely continue to grow.

Lead photo by

Supplied by Charlie Frise


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