For decades, you could walk into any office in the country and see much the same thing — individual cubicles, shuttered windows and fluorescent lighting. People assumed this kind of office increased productivity — and for baby boomers, it’s entirely possible it did.
Times are changing, though, and open-space offices are becoming the new norm. One way to improve productivity in these offices is to provide outdoor spaces. What are the benefits of having outdoor office spaces, and how can you set these up sustainably?
Benefits of Outdoor Office Spaces
Outdoor office spaces are still in their infancy, but what are some of the benefits you can expect from setting one up?
First, being out in nature lowers stress levels, at least according to a study by the Society for Public Health Education. They found workers who got a chance to spend some time outside experienced or perceived less stress than those confined to an office during the day. Even employees in industries that can’t work remotely or outdoors benefit from having some greenery in the workplace. General health complaints also lessened.
It also increases employee productivity. According to the Harvard Business Review, modern employees are more productive in a less defined space. That’s why open-plan offices are becoming so popular and why many businesses are starting to explore outdoor office spaces.
All the studies thus far have shown outdoor office spaces lead to happier, healthier and more productive employees. How can you incorporate this into your office sustainably?
Tips for Setting up a Sustainable Outdoor Office
What do you need to set up a sustainable outdoor office for your employees?
- Space — The first thing you’ll need is a space for your outdoor office. Do you already have a patio or a rooftop you can convert, or do you need to build something new, such as a deck, you can use for that purpose? If you’re going with new construction, you’ll need to get the proper permits to build and need to consider what materials work best for your environment. Metal, for instance, lasts longer and is more lightweight, but it can be very slippery in wet or humid weather. Wood can be easier to assemble, though it may not last as long as aluminum or steel.
- Power — Even if you’re only using your outside office for brainstorming and coffee breaks, having easily accessible power for charging phones or laptops is a great way to make the outdoor office more appealing. Run outdoor extension cords or power strips, or even consider investing in furniture with integrated power or USB ports. Make sure you can shut them off when they’re not in use, so you aren’t wasting power. That way, you’ll make your office more sustainable.
- Comfort — Working outside has many benefits, but only if you’ve got somewhere you can escape from the sun. Keep your local climate in mind — are you somewhere like Florida, where it’s obscenely hot for nine months out of the year, or somewhere like New York, where your outdoor office might be covered in snow during the winter months? Consider shade, fans to keep the air moving and other comfort-based features.
- Greenery — Don’t just add some potted plants and call it a day. You can potentially landscape your entire outdoor office for maximum productivity and sustainability. Choose local plants that don’t need a ton of extra water. You might even want to consider planting vegetables your employees can enjoy in season. It’s not just good for your employees — it’s good for the bees, too!
- Lighting — If you’ve got night owls on your team, you might need some outdoor lighting. We can look at phone screens or laptops in the dark, but it increases eye strain. Keep the lights off during the day, though — if you think you might forget to shut them off, invest in lighting with photocell sensors that automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn. You can even look into solar-powered lighting instead of traditional versions.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to set up an outdoor office. Just make it comfortable and give your employees somewhere to retreat if the sun gets too hot or they get caught in an afternoon thunderstorm, and the rest will all fall into place. An outdoor workspace can be one of the best things you can do to ensure your team is happy, healthy and more productive than ever, and you can even do it sustainably.