Turning Your Cottage Into A Remote Workspace

By Joe Callaghan • Last Updated July 12 2022

The pandemic has hypersped so much of our lives. Weeks where decades of progress happen, goes the phrase. The era of remote work may have been thrust upon us but there can now be no doubt about the fact that it is upon us and, in one way or another, is here to stay. 

While the early-Pandemic-era definition of remote work may have meant a hastily arranged desktop set-up in the den corner of your downtown condo, there is (almost) no reason why you cannot lean into the truest meaning of remote. Turning your cottage into your work-from-paradise space is not as complicated as you think, once a couple of key factors are considered — and tackled. Here’s some food for thought that may help a daydream turn into a reality…

What you need to know

  • Same rules apply — Every self-help guide to working from that den space that was published in March of 2020 applies to your cottage workplace too. If not doubly so. Separating home and work may have been hard but necessary. Separating your escape from your day job is essential. Otherwise your hard-earned slice of peace will become just another part of the hustle you were escaping in the first place. So create boundaries, set up a clear physical space, create new routines to help focus the mind and compartmentalize the day.
  • Internet decides everything — Ultimately your outlook will be decided by how easily you can get into your Outlook. Being remote means that internet options are not as clear-cut as they are in the city and when workplaces demand reliability, you don’t want your location to become a disruptive factor. So make sure you’re super clear on what the coverage options are like in your area before buying. The further backcountry you go, the more likely it will be that you could end up relying on less traditional options, starting with your phone as a hotspot. This is where unlimited data plans come in handy. Wireless portable internet hubs are another option (buy back-up battery packs and keep them charged if you go with this). Signal boosters and wifi extenders are also invaluable in a cottage setting where you don’t want to be limited to one space. Luckily more options continue to come online…read on!
  • Back everything up early and often — Power outages are much more common in cottage country. You don’t want to be midway through that project when the lights (and everything else) go out. Remote batteries are a godsend. Similarly, when things go down they can stay down longer so having hard back-ups can be crucial too. Just think about things more offline than you would if you were in the city, external hard drives etc. Surge protection is equally important here. Voltages can spike when the power does return so be prepared for that on all of your devices and power bars. 

What you need to add to your vocabulary: Starlink

When he’s not busy trolling half of the internet or causing his own Tesla stock to plummet by the billions, Elon Musk does in fact make some positive-ish things happen. Musk’s ventures beyond earth’s atmosphere with SpaceX are now very well known and one of its offshoots is beginning to likewise pierce the consciousness. Starlink is a satellite internet service that promises to offer high-speed internet access to (eventually) even the most remote locations on earth. ‘The only tool you need is a chainsaw’ was the reaction of one user. The reviews for Canada have thus far been largely positive (impressively high upload and download speeds for remote locations the biggest plus while coverage drops are an issue). At around $140 per month it’s on the pricier side for now but Musk’s mainstreaming of the space (quite literally) means more rivals will soon be piling in which could lead to better competition, coverage and options for even the most backcountry consumer. 

What you (maybe) don’t know

  • Ham radio is still a thing and it allows you to send and receive emails: Yes, really. If you’ve weighed up the costs of being fully connected vs. completely off grid but find there’s a tiny bit of you that keeps getting pulled back to the rat race then amateur or ham radio offers a philosophical compromise. It also offers one hell of a passion project because getting it set up is no mean feat: you need to get a ham radio license then assemble the equipment and tweak and test the frequencies. But through Winlink, which has been around since the 1980s, you can use your radio for emails and even text messages while still escaping social media and cell phones. Win-winlink for the true off-grid brigade!
  • Lighter is almost always better: not being tied to the desk is half of the appeal of working extra remotely. Zoom calls from the deck, spreadsheets on the dock…all of this sounds blissful. But you don’t want to be lugging around a tonne of equipment every step of the way. So channel your inner backpacker when choosing your tech. Think super-thin laptops and light cameras or microphones. Also think longer-life batteries too.

Well actually, work is the last thing on our minds?

Traditionally cottages haven’t been hives of industry. Quite the opposite. And even in our rat race world, it’s important to pause and look down the line. If your cottage is in fact more of a retirement dream then there are a world of other factors that need to be considered. To pick some of our most pertinent questions:

Is the cottage itself the kind of space you can age into?

Whether the retirement is early or otherwise, accessibility should always be considered. None of us are getting any younger so cast the mind a few years down the line as you look at a property’s features. Think steep cliffs and water access, dock access too, think wooden stairs, wheelchair accessible driveways. 

Is it in the kind of region you can age into?

While remoteness is a priority, priorities can pivot with time and having both amenities and emergency or regular health services at least within short driving distance should be considered. 

Will it be a drain or a boon on retirement finances?

Elsewhere in these chapters we have spoken about the costly upkeep of cottages but we have also discussed how demand for getaway properties continues to increase and supply is finite. On all fronts a cottage will impact economically. So whether it’s part of your nest egg or your plan is to downsize to the countryside, weigh up all of the advice on offer.