6 August 2020/ rent_office_guide

The Next Frontier in Office Space? The Outdoors

Commercial properties to rent at Realla


Building developers and business owners are increasingly prioritising biophilic design when it comes to creating desirable workspaces. What is this? It’s an initiative to bring employees closer to nature, whether by incorporating plants and air purifiers into existing offices, or constructing brand new terraces with trees, walking trails and vegetable patches.

We all know the benefits of spending more time in the great outdoors. But the easing of the COVID-19 lockdown is likely to trigger a move towards outdoor working, as we look for ways to return to offices safely. What’s more, outside spaces should help improve the work-life balance of many employees, providing the chance to escape screens, enjoy lunch with colleagues and even do a spot of yoga.

Perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate our approach to office design. Few roles chain their workers to one place; most employees are free to move around. So, if an outdoor space has plug sockets and Wi-Fi, there’s great potential for an increase in staff wellbeing and productivity.


Why employees want to work outside

Our surroundings have a huge impact on the way we work, affecting not only our mindset but our wellbeing too. In fact, 78% of employees say their physical environment influences where they choose to work. And 86% want to spend more time outside during their working hours. In the US, studies show access to natural light and outside views top the employee wish list.

This focus on nature isn’t just a workplace trend; the statistics prove it really does have an impact on the staff experience. 47% of people say a lack of natural light leaves them feeling tired, and 43% report feeling low-spirited Meanwhile, employees working near windows found their drowsiness dropped by 56%, eyestrain by 51%, and headaches by 63%.

Job satisfaction is also closely tied to natural light, and 73% of employees say it boosts their happiness at work. And on top of all these benefits, being close to nature also reduces our level of cortisol, the stress hormone.


Having outdoor workspaces can benefit employers too

Bosses have been able to improve their businesses’ productivity levels by creating outdoor spaces for employees. Just making time for a quick walk outside promotes creativity and allows workers to focus for longer. To take just one example, a group of call centre employees in the US were able to work 6%-12% faster just by having a view outside.

Building ‘green’ workspaces also positively impact employee retention. According to Harvard Business Review, two-thirds of staff members would be more likely to accept or stay at a job if it put a spotlight on their health and wellbeing. So, providing access to outdoor space is a great way for an employer to demonstrate their dedication to employee wellbeing while boosting their business’s output.

Big companies are setting an example

You only need to look at some of the biggest tech companies out there to get a sense of the developments soon to shape the workplace. These innovative and forward-thinking corporations can use their impressive budgets to trial new types of offices – and other businesses can learn from their successes.

Here’s how some of the big names are promoting outdoor working:

  • Facebook’s flagship offices in Menlo Park, California has nine acres of outdoor space, complete with paths for walking meetings.
  • Microsoft’s Redmond campus in Washington has multi-million-dollar treehouses where employees can work or host meetings.
  • Samsung’s 10-storey North America HQ in California has outdoor space on every third floor. Some are used for relaxation and yoga, others for golfing sessions.
  • Amazon’s Seattle HQ has The Spheres, three glass domes with over 40,000 plants from 30 different countries.
  • Adobe’s San Jose HQ has patio space with tables and chairs, a vegetable garden and a rooftop basketball court.


Considerations for outdoor offices

Outside workspaces are, of course, more exposed to the elements than conventional offices, so you’ll need to bear a few things in mind if you’re moving towards outdoor working. One of the key considerations is shade. Bright sunlight can not only create glare on laptop screens but also result in headaches and sunburn. To avoid these outcomes, it’s important to create shade, whether that’s with a selection of parasols, or a more creative solution, such as trees or pergolas.

You’ll also need to think about how your outdoor office will survive, should the weather turn. You may need to anchor down desks or seating areas so they stay secure in high winds, or make sure smaller pieces of equipment can be moved inside before winter. Investing in high-quality covers for outdoor furniture is also a must if you’re to protect your outdoor office in poor weather conditions.


Outdoor workspaces can drive up costs

Developing ‘green’ office spaces can demand a significant investment, particularly if you’re converting an entire roof terrace into an innovative workspace with living trees and electrical connections. Developments like these require consultations with a range of professionals, from investors and architects to builders and landscape gardeners.

As well as following the standard building process, developers creating rooftop gardens need to fund a number of additional features. Sealing the roof and using lightweight soils are just two of the ways you should safeguard the rest of the building. Once you add into the mix comfortable break-out seating, refreshment areas and extras like yoga mats and water features, for example, you could be facing a hefty bill.

But property professionals believe the costs are certainly worth paying. According to Paul Amrich, Vice Chairman of real estate firm CBRE, landlords can charge up to 15% more for offices with outdoor space. Property owners can also develop terraces if they want to make uninviting offices more attractive. If landlords of city blocks with minimal appeal use roof space to their advantage, they can entice businesses with a focus on employee wellbeing. Workspaces with no natural light or outside views suddenly become highly desirable.


Create your perfect office

Business leaders are giving more consideration to the work-life balance and mental wellbeing of their employees than ever before. At a time when the majority of office workers have been stuck indoors and are keen to get out again, a move towards working outside seems more relevant than ever. And with businesses competing for precious real estate, it makes sense to adapt our outdoor areas for working.

Taking note of how some of the biggest and most profitable companies choose to treat their workers could provide a key indicator of the secrets to success. The research certainly seems to prove just how much of an impact working outside – or even within view of a decent window – can have on an employee’s efficiency.

And while the Great British weather might not be conducive to outdoor working all the time, outside offices have the potential to significantly increase employee wellbeing, job satisfaction and productivity.

To find your perfect workspace, take a look at Realla’s offices to rent.