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Tips for Incorporating an Outdoor Space in Your Office

Photo credit: Apple

More and more large companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google are incorporating design concepts centered around the outdoors in their overall design. This might look like trees growing through the center of a well-lit lobby or materials that make you feel like the designers have brought the outdoors in, such as using stone or unfinished wood.

There is nothing quite like the real outdoors, though.

Although it is still argued, there is an idea that humans are naturally drawn to the outdoors. As time progresses, more scientists, sociologists, designers, and architects are accepting this, and it has come to be called the biophilia hypothesis.

If you have been looking for ways to increase your employees' productivity or decrease your turnover rate, then incorporating outdoor spaces into your office is an excellent option to consider. Wondering about how you can tailor this to your space? We have a few ideas.

Photo Credit: L.L. Bean

Build Outside the Box

Start by thinking outside the box. For example, does your office space have a lawn or yard that you can utilize? Even if you don't, you could go the way of L.L. Bean and build outdoor coworking stations on a concrete space, filling it with plants to make the city center feel like the wilderness.

You can also utilize areas like a rooftop or balcony. The key to using these areas comes is getting creative with the design of the space. If you just put a couple of chairs out on a hot roof or extended balcony, you are unlikely to attract your employees to work outdoors. Instead, make it appealing and suitable for work by using some of the other design tips outlined below.

Harness the Contrast of Shade to Sun

One of the primary positive aspects of incorporating an outdoor space into your office is the sun. As many of us who enjoy the outdoors know, the sun is also what makes it more difficult to work outside. No matter how bright our screens go, there is nothing like the headache you get from trying to see your laptop in the bright sun.

That being said, use the sun wisely. Provide plenty of areas where the sun can stream in, perhaps through skylights or large windows if you have more of an enclosed space. In open spaces, consider protected pergolas that let plenty of light through their slats. Consider the direction the sun will come from during the bulk of the workday. Position the windows or exterior structures in ways that the light won't shine directly on workspaces but around them instead.

Other options for an open area, such as a patio, include using umbrellas and shade screens to craft workstations. In this case, it is best to invest in auto-tilt umbrellas so you can adjust the shade canopy throughout the day.

Create Using Naturalistic Materials and Open Spaces

A well-designed outdoor space isn't only determined by the placement of the space but also the materials used in the design. The more natural you can make the architecture and materials, the more it will make employees feel like they are at one with the surrounding nature while still connecting to WiFi and working efficiently.

Natural materials can be all kinds of things, but it is arguably best to select those that fit with the character of the surrounding area or those that you can source locally and sustainably. These could be wood, stone, or even clay.

Increase Functionality

Try to make these spaces as functional as possible. Many of these could double as break time areas with some tweaks to the furniture or openness of the area. Try to place furniture that is adjustable in the space and decorate with various kinds of plant pots. Take a note of how tiny homes are built where tables can be put up to increase the openness of a space for an event or easily set out to create multiple workspaces.

Make Clear Delineations Using Screens or Plants

If you intend for some of these areas to serve as relaxation stations rather than purely workspaces, consider making the lines clear. Instead of walls that restrict breathability and light, consider the use of wooden screens. You can also use plant walls to keep the feeling of the forest close at hand without sacrificing privacy. You can also use these natural living walls to delineate office spaces instead of having one large open space. By using lightweight materials or a moveable living wall, you can move the space around to keep it functional for other events.

Always Have a Suitable Work Surface

One of the integral parts of having a workspace anywhere is the work surface. When you think of outdoor living spaces, you might imagine low-slung couches and coffee tables that come to about calf height. However, it would help if you had chairs that support good posture and a work surface that doesn't require you to double over in front of the laptop in a workspace. In addition, a suitable work surface will encourage more people to use the outdoor space.

Make the Seating Cozy

Now, don't get us wrong, having a few low-slung couches with cushions galore isn't a total waste of space for those happy to work with their laptops in their laps. However, it is best to try to make the rest of the seating comfortable as well. Whether you bring in typical office chairs or choose more eclectic options like hanging egg rattan chairs, choose options that support the average worker and the typical setup they need to work effectively. Don't forget to provide plenty of outlets. If the outdoor space is far away, you might choose to use extension cables to get the electricity out to the workstation.

Getting the Outside In

Finally, what makes an outdoor space more outdoorsy than incorporating plenty of plants? The more green you can bring into the outdoor space, the more employees will feel at ease and connected with nature while connected to their laptops.

Whatever space you have to work with, there are likely more ways than you can imagine to make it feel like the outdoors. Keep it breezy, naturalistic, simple, and full of plants, and you will quickly reap the rewards of higher focus, staff retention and efficiency in the workplace.

We at Zauben can help. Incorporating living walls to separate your space and increase its functionality or to add a touch of nature to any workspace, our living walls are the ultimate addition to your office—whether that's an indoor or outdoor space.


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