This Calgary business turns sea cans into backyard offices

A Calgary builder has started offering customizable backyard offices for rent for those stuck working at home due to COVID-19 restrictions.

'I have young kids, so I know exactly what it's like to be interrupted in the middle of meetings'

A Calgary builder is now offering mini office spaces for people's backyard for those stuck working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Jeremy Johnson)

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant  swapping work commutes for zoom meetings.

For some, it has also meant working in a living room surrounded by piles of laundry, the sound of housemates grinding coffee or pets getting into trouble.

But one Calgarian thinks he's found a creative solution for those needing more space — even just temporarily — while they work from home.

That is, if you have room for a sea can in your backyard.

Jeremy Johnson is a Calgary builder and founder of Modern Huts. He recently launched a backyard office rental business, crafting fully furnished offices made from shipping containers.

"It works as an office ... outside of your home for that exact reason so that you don't have kids and interruptions and everything else that daily life has inside your home," Johnson told The Calgary Eyeopener.

He says the idea is partially a response to COVID-19, knowing some people might be looking for a space like this. And partly, it stems from his own experience.

"I have young kids, so I know exactly what it's like to be interrupted in the middle of meetings," he said.

"We have a lot of parents that have the same situation. So that's where the idea of getting into these container offices seems to come to light."

Long haul, or not

The containers are insulated and are electrically heated, meaning it just needs to be connected to your home or garage, he said. 

There's no need to do anything special to your yard to ready it for the metal can-turned-workplace — they can be propped up on basic temporary blocks, Johnson said.

People have the option of short-term rental, from one to three years, or to buy them. Rentals cost as little as $500 per month. 

"We can move the unit into the backyard and then once we remove it, we can remediate the yard and make it back to the way you've had it, or obviously turn it into long-term rental, if you want, or ownership," Johnson said.

These work from home backyard offices made from shipping containers can be rented or bought, says Jeremy Johnson, with Modern Huts. (Submitted by Jeremy Johnson)

He says they're also eligible as a business expense and can be transformed to suit individual tastes.

"We can clad the exterior to match more of what your home looks like, just to soften the idea of it being a shipping container or a lot of people like that modern look now of the shipping container," he said.

It's not the only business of this sort his company works on.

They also make backyard laneway homes, which Johnson says has picked up in interest.

"We found that people, especially with COVID, now are looking for either that extra rental income if they're turning it into an Airbnb or a rental suite, or they're also looking for that safety for their elderly family members," he said.

For now, he says people are mostly just considering the idea of the mobile offices. The company has installed just one so far. 

"We found that people are more interested in the lease option as opposed to just buying it outright," he said, especially since some don't know how long they will be working from home.

"People are … concerned that it might only be short term, but then other people are looking at the model where they may not be going back to an office ever again because their companies have found ways to make it more cost efficient to not have people in the office."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.