“We spend 95 percent of our time inside – nearly half of that related to work. Yet studies show that when we spend time outdoors, we are more productive, more creative and happier.” – L.L.Bean from their “Be an Outsider at Work” initiative

A 2018 Work and the Outdoors Survey commissioned by L.L.Bean revealed:

  • A majority of those surveyed who work indoors would like to spend more time outside during the workday, yet see their job as their biggest barrier. 
  • Workers strongly support the idea of outdoor workspace, yet company culture does not always support it.
  • Workers claim they are most likely to do creative and relationship-based work outdoors, and see less potential for work involving technology and equipment.
  • Workers believe there are tangible benefits to working outside: improve their mood, lower their stress level, provide relaxation, promote health and wellness, and increased happiness

Beyond Biophilic

Last year we wrote a blog about the use and benefits of Biophilic Design that introduces the natural elements of the outdoors to indoor environments. The practice of Biophilic Design is an attempt to reconnect humans with those elements of nature that have played a role in our health and productivity. This time we look at taking this practice one step further by bringing the indoor workplace outside. 

For much the same reason we take a walk outside to clear our heads, a breath of fresh air and change of scenery may be key ingredients to promoting productivity, creativity and a general sense of happiness amongst employees. Plus a good dose of vitamin D from sunshine may help keep the staff a bit healthier.

The days of being tied to the Ethernet and folders in a filing cabinet have given way to rapid high-speed Wi-Fi and cloud storage that provides instant access to information from almost any device. With the rapid advance of technology and wireless systems, one can easily work remotely from outside an office building. Or even driving through the desert as I did during one road trip with the assistance of my wife and our laptop using the hotspot from my cellphone. It was quite a productive session and a great way to kill time driving through Nevada.

At a former company I was employed at our conference room was buried in the center of the building with no windows to the outside world. Reflecting back on that room it was almost a bit of a prison in hindsight and may not have been conducive to the creativity our industry thrived on. Imagine the spitball sessions that might have taken place had that conference room been moved to an outdoor location, especially it included the BuzziJungle?

BuzziJungle outdoor play structure
Rethink your conference room with the BuzziJungle

That Coveted Corner Office is Giving Way to Outdoor Workspaces

From Facebook to Apple to Partners Healthcare, many corporate campuses are including outdoor workplaces as an alternative to indoor spaces as well as areas for physical recreation, yoga and more utilizing courtyards to rooftops.

While your office may be a comfort zone for you to someone unfamiliar with your workspace it may make them uncomfortable.  Meeting with a client in an outdoor setting may help put them at ease, allowing for a stress-free, productive conversation. Consider creating an area that is more relaxed using bar-height tables, lounges or even a space that you can take a short walk while conversing with clients or coworkers. 

Giving workers an optional outdoor workspace may help provide a feeling of freedom from being chained to a cubicle or help break up the workday by having an outdoor alternative to finish the job. But it’s also important that supervisors do not make employees feel like they are being frowned upon because they are working outside. This will more than often lead to employees staying inside and not utilizing the outdoor workspaces. 

Sofa, Lounge Chairs, table poolside
Take the client meetings outside with Source Furniture

Working on Sunshine

Granted there are challenges to overcome working outside, mainly weather related with the sun playing a major role. Obviously prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can be unhealthy resulting in sunburns. But the bright sunlight also makes reading computer and tablet screens very difficult. Shade structures, umbrellas, and the use of anti-glare screen guards can help remedy this problem. Products like the BuzziShed are next level shade structures that allow you to work even in the rain. It’s very important to keep the path of the sun in mind when designing outdoor workplaces. 

Another challenge is providing adequate Wi-Fi to the outdoor area that can handle accessing large files from a cloud service. There are several outdoor Wi-Fi extenders that can be used to expand the companies Wi-Fi signal. Work with your IT department to make sure the outdoor Wi-Fi extenders are compatible with the existing office equipment. Suppling access to a good Wi-Fi signal and the cloud (whether it’s an internal company server or an external service provider) will certainly improve the amount of productivity that can be accomplished outdoors. 

When planning your outdoor workplace, choose a location that is not near or in the path of heavy traffic both on foot and in vehicles. Noise generated from passing cars or crowds of people do not provide very appealing conditions to stay focused and productive. Popular in Biophilic Design is the use of vegetated walls to create attractive, natural partitions. These walls are a good way to define individual space, allow for privacy, and sound absorption. These can also be used outside workspaces for the same purposes.

Choosing the proper furniture is very important. Steer clear of outdoor residential furniture that may not last a year left out in the elements. Select sturdy commercial grade furniture that is resistant to rust and damage from UV rays.

Buzzished by BuzziSpace takes shade structs to the next level

Pick the Proper Furniture

Also keep in mind the weight of the furniture so that is not too light that it will be swept away in the first storm. Consider furniture that can bolted to the ground so it doesn’t blow away or walk away by theft. While use of metal based furniture will help prevent wind damage, make sure it has a coat or finish that will not retain heat from the sun and cause burns when people sit on it. Select light colored finishes to help reflect the heat.

Most important is choosing the correct type of furniture for the work being done. While loungers are very comfortable and great for casually conversing with clients they are a poor choice for people working on a laptop. 

A good option is power-integrated furniture that can keep the area looking less cluttered and free of visible power stripes allowing employees to use their laptops and tablets for extended period of time. 

At MB Contract Furniture we have a variety of options to suit any style of outdoor workspace. We can help you choose the furniture that will be a proper fit for the applications of your outdoor workplace while reflecting the company culture. 

Curved outdoor benches in office complex
Create visual interest with the Sierra Series from Via Seating