Desks clustered inside a high rise building, the slow hum of buzzing telephones and clicking keyboards. High walls, high rise buildings and high pressures - today’s office spaces are more sedentary and claustrophobic than ever. Yet the modern workplace is changing, and there is an increasing trend towards open and flexible office spaces. Could it be possible to combine office and nature?
Research has shown that the presence of natural elements can increase productivity: whether this means open plan windows with a forest view or a few plants scattered around some office desks, work places with greenery and sunlight tend to be 6% more productive and 15% more creative. By logical extension, moving an office outdoors rather than simply incorporating natural elements can potentially lead to even greater productivity and satisfaction. Reducing the sense of claustrophobia and high-pressure that is prevalent in a lot of offices today, outdoor surroundings can aid in creating a more relaxed, enabling environment.
Whilst outdoor offices haven’t yet reached the mainstream, the concept has become relatively popular as an alternative to the seemingly age-old desk and walls combo. Large companies like Google have been incorporating outdoor office spaces into their work ethos, providing natural surroundings and fresh air to their employees - combining an outdoor landscape with all the comforts of the inside workspace including wifi, electrical outlets and comfortable work surfaces. Unsurprisingly, when such innovative alternate spaces pop up, they prove largely popular with workers. In 2015, the enclosed office space TREExOFFICE was put up in Hoxton Square for two summers. Whilst it could only be used by eight people at one time, it was fully booked for the entirety of the time, and proved rather popular with companies looking to provide their employees with alternative work spaces.
Photo Credit: flickr | Max Nathan
Of course, there are drawbacks to this inventive concept. An obvious issue is that outdoor offices may find themselves at the mercy of unforgiving weather. Wind, rain and snow provide unusual office distractions and don’t lend themselves to a conducive work environment. Depending on where the workplace is located, noise may also be an issue. Not all outdoor offices are located in serene natural surroundings, but are in bustling urban spaces that come with all the noise levels of traffic and pedestrians. Nevertheless, as the demand for outdoor offices grows, planning has become more sophisticated. The outdoor landscape offers a blank canvas with room for creativity. Architects are creating spaces that take factors like seasonal change and noise levels into account. It’s not just about taking a few desks and putting them outside, but about creating functional, flexible spaces that lend themselves to increased productivity and reduced stress levels. Prototypes that have been produced show recycled rubber flooring, easily collapsible tent structures and UV resistant shading which render the office space practical and sustainable.
Ultimately, the demand for outdoor offices signifies a major shift in attitude, and this is something to celebrate. Perhaps most notably, working outdoors would also drastically reduce a company’s carbon footprint. This combination of increased productivity (as well as happiness!) and more sustainable practices offers a promising future for the rise of outdoor offices.