Outdoor Office Space Design & How to Make it Work

There’s no question that fresh air and sunlight are good for us. Even so, most of us spend the greater part of our days inside. We work in poorly ventilated offices, sometimes with poor lighting, and more. 

While it’s possible to install air purification systems in the office, companies are starting to understand the need and importance of wellness in the office. For this reason, many businesses are choosing to design outdoor office spaces. 

Designing outdoor office space is a somewhat new concept and can seem like an impossible task. Not much is known about setting up an outdoor workspace, and you can never depend on the weather being nice all the time. The weather’s also challenging to predict. 

While it’s true that there are no standards set up for outdoor office space, it’s still possible to create a place for employees to work outside. 


The Benefits of Fresh Air in the Workplace

Studies have shown that there are several health benefits to being in fresh air and sunlight. These can include boosting concentration, reducing stress, increasing creativity & productivity, and enhancing mood. Research has also shown that fresh air can improve short-term memory. 

When employees are stuck all day indoors, they breathe stale, polluted air. This can cause symptoms such as eye irritation, headaches/migraines, coughing, and chest tightness. In sensitive individuals or people who have asthma or a condition called vasomotor rhinitis, their symptoms are worsened and could even deteriorate enough for them to go home sick. What’s more, it’s easier for infectious diseases to be transmitted in the office building due to poor ventilation. 

What better way to get employees to improve their productivity and health than by providing them with an outdoor space to work in the fresh air and sunlight? 


Outdoor Office Space Layouts

As a designer, you’ve convinced your client to create an outdoor workspace for their employees. Now what? What’s the next step? It’s to design a layout that works with their outdoor space(s). 

While it’s clear that not all employees will want to be working outside at the same time, it’s still necessary to make sure there are enough surfaces and seating to accommodate several employees at a time. You may want to suggest a company-wide survey to your client. This could help determine the sort of layout that would work best for their needs. 

In most cases, long tables that can seat 6-8 workers are a great option. It’s also possible to add 1-2 people tables for employees who need to work alone to concentrate. 


Best Materials & Fabrics for Outdoor Furniture

When designing an outdoor office space, it’s necessary to choose durable furniture that can withstand weather changes and last for years with almost continuous use. Here’s a list of some of the best materials and fabrics to use outdoors: 

  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminium
  • Hardwood
  • Synthetic resin (often used to look like wicker)
  • Plastic
  • Acrylic fabric
  • Polyester
  • Polyurethane foam


What’s Needed in an Outdoor Office? 

Designing an outdoor office space comes with some challenges. Employees will need to bring their laptops out with them, so there are some things to consider that are needed to make the outdoor office space successful: 

  • WiFi extenders 
  • Plenty of outlets & USB power ports
  • Umbrellas
  • Canopies
  • Awning
  • Pergola
  • Heat lamps (for colder months) 

Connectivity and protection are essential elements of the outdoor office environment. 


Creating Comfortable Microclimates

Comfort is essential when working outside. There’s no air conditioning or humidity control in the open air. And there will be some days that are extremely hot or cold. It all depends on the local climate conditions. However, there may be ways around this by creating comfortable microclimates. 

To create microclimates, it may be necessary to hire a landscape architect to design features to help keep employees comfortable. These can include water features, the planting of mature trees to create shade and limit glare, and more. In addition, the use of materials that reduce heat can work to create a comfortable microclimate for everyone to enjoy working outside. 


Creating Privacy and Sound Control

Another concern is to create privacy and deal with sound control. Like in a traditional office, sound can be a problem working outdoors. So, you may want to use plants as natural barriers and sound barriers. Water features, such as fountains or water walls, also work to minimize noise, and they add a calming effect. 

Plants and screens can also provide more privacy for employees who work on sensitive tasks.


What Spaces Can be Used to Create Outdoor Workspaces? 

Outdoor workspaces can take many different forms. For instance, a patio or terrace would make an excellent place for employees to work in the fresh air. But if your client doesn’t have such spaces, almost any outdoor space that could be converted into an outdoor office may work. 

The key is to get creative when designing the workspace and to ensure employees have everything they need to work effectively. 


Hybrid Office Space

If there isn’t enough outdoor space to work with or if the client doesn’t like the idea of having a fully open-air workspace for their employees, you may want to suggest a hybrid office space. 


How Could This be Accomplished? 

Rather than having regular windows, you may want to opt for floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors or even garage doors. These can be left completely open, offering the comfort of working indoors, yet with the health benefits of being outside in the sunlight and fresh air. The space can also be connected to a balcony so more employees can make use of the space. 

Here, again, some of the same elements needed for an outdoor workspace are needed for a hybrid workspace, including: 

  • WiFi
  • Power outlets & USB power ports
  • Proper lighting (it may be necessary to add some task lighting if the space doesn’t receive enough natural light)
  • Comfortable, multi-purpose furniture


Summing It Up

An outdoor workspace is an excellent way to improve employee productivity, wellbeing, and happiness. As a designer, you may need to get creative when it comes to finding and converting an outdoor space into an outside workspace. But that’s part of the fun and challenge of being a designer! 

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