Do you feel more relaxed, healthy and creative when you spend time outdoors? If so, you are not alone–studies show that exposure to nature reduces stress, enhances well-being, and improves human performance. Sadly, British workers spend 142 hours indoors each week–85% of their time, on average–between home, the office, retail shops and cars. A lot of that time is spent working indoors, and many companies are searching for ways to deliver the healthy benefits of nature to employees by creating outdoor offices.
Biophilic design principles guide outdoor space design
Biophilic office design brings natural elements indoors to enhance employee wellbeing, and its benefits are well-documented. Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester surveyed over 7,600 workers in 16 countries and discovered those who worked in offices that incorporated elements of nature reported a 15% higher level of well-being, a 6% higher level of productivity and a 15% higher level of creativity.
As we’ve seen, there are good reasons to bring elements of water, plants, and natural light to indoor offices. But what about taking the workspace outside the building and placing it into nature? After all, there really is no substitute for fresh air, a fair breeze and direct sunshine on your skin. That’s why forward-thinking companies have begun creating outdoor office space.
Employees value outdoor office space
In a survey of “indoor workers,” 86% would like to spend more time outdoors during the workday, yet most rarely or never do. When asked why, 65% said their job was a barrier to going outdoors, whether the job required them to be inside (for example, at a cash register), or technology issues prevented outdoor use (lack of power outlets, Wi-Fi), or they just feared the boss would not like it.
5 tips for creating effective outdoor workspaces
Employees want to spend more time outside. It would be healthy for them to do so and logical for employers to facilitate that. Use these tips to think through the issues as you design your company’s outdoor offices:
1. Let workers choose between sun and shade. Sunlight warms the skin and restores our Vitamin D levels. But it can also cause sunburn and make it very difficult to read screens on laptops and mobile devices. As you create your outdoor workspaces, place some in sunny areas and others in shady spots. If there are no trees in your outdoor office, you can use shade sails (also called sun sails) to create your own shade.
2. Choose the right furnishings for outdoor use. Outdoor workspaces endure prolonged sun exposure, insects, birds, rain, ice, snow and freezing temperatures. Your outdoor office furniture needs to stand up to whatever Mother Nature throws at it. Choose light coloured furnishings, because that will deflect heat. Furniture should be constructed of waterproof materials, such as coated metals, painted wood, teak wood, or plastics. Finally, it should be easy to clean, so it can be kept free of dirt, insects and droppings.
3. Consider an atrium, biosphere, or prefabricated pod in rainy or cold locations. In areas that experience a lot of rainy days each year, such as London, Scotland, and the American Northwest, employees need a way to work outside without getting wet. Likewise, in places with very cold winter weather, a well-designed outdoor enclosure allows the beauty of nature in, without freezing your workers. These enclosed nature retreats are also a good way to buffer out unwanted noise such as city traffic.
At its corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington, Amazon built a series of three spheres as tall as 90 feet to provide a natural environment for employees. Inside the domes, over 400 species of plants from 30 countries grow, and employees can use a variety of spaces for meetings, relaxation, exercise, and even playing with their dogs. Amazon invested heavily in The Spheres, however, businesses can create enclosed natural spaces for far less using prefabricated outdoor pods.
4. If you lack green real-estate, get creative. In city centres where green real estate is lacking, employers may have to get creative to take advantage of outdoor spaces. One popular area for outdoor office design in high-density location is the rooftop.
5. Make it easy to use technology. Modern office workers need to be able to access company Wi-Fi and electricity while outside the building. Make sure your outdoor office spaces include charging stations and good internet and cell phone reception.
Design outdoor offices for the modern workforce
As study after study demonstrates the benefits of employee wellbeing on corporate performance, smart companies are finding new ways to support employees. Helping them spend more time outdoors has many benefits, including stress reduction, higher productivity, and greater creativity. Asure Software can be a strong partner to your business as you design highly functional, modern indoor and outdoor workspaces to foster greater levels of wellbeing.