Spending time outside often provides a wide range of health and psychological benefits, and in some cases, it may be possible to incorporate the outdoors into an office setting. Outdoor offices may provide an exciting change for staff and can help a business create a more sustainable environment. Creating an outdoor workspace might provide these benefits to you and your staff and may help your organization improve its productivity. In this article, we explore the benefits and challenges of working outside and provide tips and steps that you can take to build an outdoor workplace.
Why might you consider working outside?
Working outside can have many benefits for employees and for businesses. Here are some benefits of working outside to consider:
Office buildings often use large quantities of energy, which can be expensive to operate. Moving an office outdoors can allow you to save money and reduce your environmental impact by reducing your reliance on indoor appliances. Natural light can replace artificial lighting systems, and working outside may reduce your use of climate control systems, like air conditioning and central heating.
Improves employee health
An outdoor work environment may have many benefits for the health of your employees. It can encourage movement and exercise, which may be more healthy than remaining seated all day. It can also give employees access to outside air, which is often much cleaner than interior air, and exposes them to natural sunlight, which can provide vitamin D and may improve sleep quality. In addition, working outdoors may help improve the immune responses of your staff and may help prevent the spread of disease.
Reduces stress and improves mood
Working outside can provide employees with a change of environment, which may improve their mood and help them feel more positive about their work. Outside environments, natural light and fresh air may also help reduce stress levels in employees. A happier and more relaxed staff can help you retain staff and help them be more productive.
Read more: 6 Benefits of Working Outdoors (With Tips)
What activities can move outside?
Even if you're unable to move your entire office outside, you can consider performing some work activities outdoors. You can conduct interviews or walking meetings in outdoor spaces or create an exterior break and lunch area for employees. You might also encourage your employees to participate in team-building activities in parks or other outdoor spaces. To encourage these activities, you can consider extending Wi-Fi connectivity outside your building and setting up shady areas with comfortable furniture.
How to set up an outdoor office
Consider these steps to set up an outdoor office:
1. Find a suitable spot
The first step in setting up an outdoor office is to choose the right spot. If you're at home, you may choose to use an unused area of your yard. If you work in an office building, look for outdoor spaces with shade. It may also be helpful to find an area that is somewhat sheltered to avoid noise and distractions. If you're looking for an outdoor space for temporary activities, like walking meetings, interviews or company activities, a public park may be ideal.
2. Bring furniture
After finding a spot, it might be helpful to determine what type of furniture you and your employees require. Consider getting weatherproof tables or finding comfortable chairs that are waterproof. If your workspace is temporary, it might be useful to use folding furniture and set aside an area to store it when not in use. For sunny days and light rain, you can consider setting up umbrellas or a canopy over your outdoor office.
3. Set up power
You may require outlets if you and your employees use electronic devices in your work. Consider using wireless headphones, cell phones, tablets, laptops and wireless chargers when possible. If you require outlets, ensure that you're close to a building with power. You can then use extension cords to power your devices.
If your office is more permanent, it may be helpful to install full electrical systems to power it. In other cases, you might choose to use a generator or an outdoor power station. These tools can supply your office with a more reliable long-term electrical supply.
4. Get connected
Many offices use extensive Wi-Fi networks. If you're working near your main office, you may already have Wi-Fi access. However, if you're farther away from your home network, it may be helpful to install Wi-Fi extenders to cover the outdoor workspace. If access to the main network isn't necessary, your employees may choose to use other Wi-Fi networks or mobile hotspots.
5. Control the temperature
Outdoor space may not have the same climate control systems as office buildings, but there are many ways you can increase the comfort of your employees. In hot weather, you can consider using portable fans or moveable air conditioning units. If it's cold in your area, it may be helpful to use small portable heaters. You might also consider making your outdoor office more enclosed in order to keep your employees warm.
Challenges to working outside
While working outside may provide benefits, it may also introduce some challenges. Here are some of those potential challenges and ways you can work around them:
In some areas, there may be a high risk of inclement weather. This can include rain, snow, high winds or hail. If these weather conditions are common in your area, you can consider making a hybrid office space that has outdoor and indoor elements. This can allow your staff you adapt to changing weather. If adverse weather conditions in your area are minimal, it may be enough to install umbrellas and weatherproof furniture in your outdoor workspace.
Many offices rely on extensive networks and multiple power sources to operate. Moving these assets outside may be challenging, but it may make your outside workspace more viable. Consider using cell phones, wireless chargers and laptops as work devices and using mesh systems and extenders to expand Wi-Fi into your outside workspace.
Heat and cold
Working outside may be more challenging during certain parts of the year when temperatures are more extreme. If your office is in an area that experiences cold winters or very hot summers, consider making your outdoor workspace seasonal. For less extreme temperatures, you may choose to use space heaters, fans or canopies to make your space more comfortable.
Tips for working comfortably outside
Here are some tips that can help you work more comfortably outside:
In metropolitan areas, it may be challenging to find quiet spaces to work. Consider moving your workspace away from roadways and places where people gather. It may also be helpful to use noise-canceling headphones when working in order to maintain focus.
Be aware of insects
You may encounter certain elements of nature, such as insects, in outdoor spaces. Consider using insect repellent or traps to keep insects away. If they continue to be a challenge in your workplace, you can consider using physical mesh nets or screens.
Providing refreshments may provide your employees with a more pleasant work experience. In cold weather, hot beverages can keep employees warm and comfortable. It may also be important to provide water in order to prevent dehydration in warm climates. Consider bringing a small refrigerator or cooler to your outside office in order to keep your employees hydrated and comfortable.
Wear suitable clothing
Outdoor settings may require a change of dress code for employees. In warm weather, it may be helpful to wear shorts, short-sleeved shirts and hats in order to keep cool. In cool weather, consider wearing a jacket or sweater and a hat to stay warm. Sunglasses may also be helpful in sunny weather, and umbrellas may be useful if your area is expecting rain.
Natural sunlight can bring many benefits, but it's important to protect yourself from sunburn. When there is sunny weather in your area, ensure that you and your employees have and use sunscreen. If no sunscreen is available, it may be helpful to work in shady areas or under a canopy.
Use anti-glare protectors
Direct sunlight can make it challenging to use devices with screens. To make your devices usable outdoors, you can consider using anti-glare screen protectors. They are available for laptops, cellphones and tablets and can allow your team to use their devices effectively in an outdoor environment.
Provide access to restrooms
If your outdoor office is near your building, employees may have access to restrooms. However, if your workspace is not in the vicinity of an office, it may be helpful to find another business that has public facilities for your staff to use. If neither of these options is available, consider renting a portable lavatory. If you plan for your outdoor workspace to be permanent or semipermanent, you might consider installing restrooms for you and your employees.