Outdoor Workspaces: Improving Employee Productivity Can Be a Breeze

Ever have an uber-busy week of C-suite meetings, employee onboarding, budget assessments, and more? Did you find yourself feeling as if you needed to go for a walk? Maybe to get a breath of fresh air and calm your nerves?

That’s not a coincidence. Biophilia supports this phenomenon. In fact, eco-psychologists continue to study the benefits natural exposure has on our mental and physical health—from reduced stress levels to better cognitive health, and improved wellness–to name a few.

Your employees could reap all of these benefits and more. That’s where outdoor workspaces come into the picture. But, what if you’re in the middle of a city, aka, concrete jungle, and don’t have the means to create an outdoor workspace?

Here’s the good news! These workspaces can take many forms if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get creative. Keep reading to discover how you can create the best outdoor workspace for your team!

Top 3 Benefits of Outdoor Workspaces

Before we dive into the main benefits your employees can gain from outdoor workspaces, let’s first cover some of the top science-backed benefits of being outdoors:

  • Bolsters our immune system
  • Encourages physical activity while connecting to nature
  • Lessens anxiety and improves self-esteem and overall physical and mental wellness
  • Improves sleep habits
  • Increases exposure to natural vitamin D
  • Improves social interactions

When it comes to your employees, working in an outdoor workspace will not only benefit their physical and mental health but doing so will also have a positive impact on their job performance and workplace morale. 

Here are the top 3 benefits of offering your employees an outdoor workspace:

1. Boosts creativity & out-of-the-box thinking

Have you ever been on a walk when inspiration hits? Maybe a budget problem has been needling you for weeks, only for the solution to pop up while you’re halfway down a hiking trail?

When we’re exposed to fresh air instead of office spaces and vast skies instead of ceilings, it can help us think more creatively. Studies that focus on the connection between nature and mental health tell us that spending time outdoors can help us recalibrate our attention spans which can lead to fortified creativity and better problem-solving skills.

2. Improves workplace morale

When your employees feel good in both mind and body, it can have a domino effect on the overall workplace morale and your company culture. Research supports that even individuals who suffer from anxiety and depression may experience an improvement in their symptoms as a result of being outdoors. 

Not to mention, positivity is contagious. When we feel better mentally and physically, we carry ourselves differently. Our outlook on the workday is often more positive. Perhaps the conversations we have with our employees are more light-hearted, even humorous.

3. Increases employee productivity

Worldhealth.net reports that spending just 29 minutes outside can lead to a 45% boost in productivity. 

While your employees have their expected goals and benchmarks to reach, it’s important to note this type of super-productivity results from the positive boost to their well-being that working outdoors affords them. 

In other words, it isn’t the type of productivity boost that could lead to burnout.

3 Disadvantages of Outdoor Workspaces

The following disadvantages may apply to certain businesses or office situations. They do not apply to outdoor workspaces, as a whole.

1. Impractical for Certain Businesses

If most of your employees spend their days on the phone with customers or troubleshooting consumer issues, they need reliable hardware, and that means ample desk space and a lot of electrical outlets. 

While it’s always possible to fully equip your outdoor workspace with outlets, extension cords, and more, you’ll want to determine if it’s feasible and safe to do so. After all, you don’t want your team tripping over hundreds of cords snaking around the ground.

2. Mother Nature’s Distractions

Mother Nature is a powerful force. Both unpredictable and constant, she can throw a wrench into any outdoor workspace. From lightning to heavy winds, rain showers, or hail, you’ll need to take extra precautions to keep your employees protected from whatever she throws at them. 

Here are a few additions you could consider adding to your company’s outdoor workspace:

  • Space heaters to stave off the cold temperatures
  • Canvas awnings or a fully-covered space (with see-through panels) for sun, wind, and rain protection
  • Fans for warm temperatures
  • Use sunshades with anti-glare protectors to keep your team from squinting while they work.

3. It May Come with a Steep Price Tag

An outdoor workspace can come with a hefty price tag, but it doesn’t have to. If you have it in the annual budget to build a terrace, landscape it with flowering trees, install an outdoor fireplace, kitchen amenities, and more, then go for it!

None of that is necessary though to create an outdoor workspace your team will glean benefits from. Get creative and seek feedback from them. Hold an informal meeting or distribute a survey seeking their input. You might be surprised by their ideas.

Creative Outdoor Workspace Ideas

How expansive or restrictive your outdoor workspace is is up to you (and the space, logistics, and budget you’re working with). 

Here are three creative outdoor workspace ideas that could meet your team’s needs:

The Rooftop or Terrace Outdoor Workspace

If your office building already has an unused rooftop or a weeded-over back terrace, then you’ve hit the gold mine of outdoor workspaces. That’s assuming the space is safe, of course. Let’s say it is! Here’s where you can roll out turf, incorporate potted trees and plants, install outlets, lighting sources, and so on.

Working hours aside, this would be an ideal place for after-hour socials or company-wide, team-building activities that can help everyone’s health and wellness. For instance, you could pencil in Laughter Yoga once or twice a month on the terrace as a way for everyone to begin getting used to their new natural workplace surroundings in a fun way.

The Quasi-Outdoor Workspace

We believe in working with what you have. If that means decluttering or even emptying the 12 ft. x 10 ft. old equipment dumping ground on the side of the building, then so be it. Take a look around the perimeter of your building. Does the property already have an outdoor space used for something else? If so, this could be ripe for renovation.

Worst case scenario, if nothing else, you can always bring nature indoors. Let’s say you’re only working with a single-floor office sectioned off by cubicles. You’ll want to nature-fy the place with plants, potted trees, and as much natural light as possible.

The Ad Hoc Outdoor Workspace

What if your office space consists of two floors, no rooftop or terrace? Just a few potted plants at the stoop of your front entrance is the extent of your employee’s access to nature during the work day.

This is when you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and get a little creative when it comes to providing access to an outdoor workspace. In this case, you can create an Ad Hoc Outdoor Workspace whenever you want and wherever you want. 

Offering your team outdoor team-building exercises like the Ultimate Tailgate Challenge will get them out of the office and in nature, while also working on key strategy, communication, and teambuilding skills in a fun way.

All work and no play can make your employees burn out. Your outdoor workspace doesn’t have to revolve around desk space and outlets. Give your team room to breathe, while also strengthening key soft skills.

Catapult to Success is an outdoor team-building competition where your employees learn to work together to build working catapults [and practice their brainstorming, communication, and collaboration skills, and many others under the sun.

5 Things to Consider Before Creating an Outdoor Workspace

  • WiFi Connectivity & Strength: Sometimes WiFi connectivity can be disrupted when we’re outside. We’ve all been there. You may need WiFi boosters or additional routers or extenders to compensate. 
  • Unpredictable Weather: We all know the weather is anything but an exact science. You’ll need to consider many factors, such as heat, cold, wind, rain, storms, snow, and more. Your employees–and their technical equipment–need to be safe.
  • Noisy Surroundings: Equipped with a playground and around 60 kids running around and screaming throughout the work day? You’ll need to assess the environment around your outdoor workspace to determine if a. That is the ideal spot; and b. If there are noisy conditions out of your control.
  • Sun Glare & Vision Impairment: When designing your outdoor workspace, consider practical additions, such as covered awnings or even wide-brimmed umbrellas for each workstation. Both of these would provide double-duty protection against both sun glare and rain.
  • Critters & Other Nuisances: Distractions in the workplace can come in all forms—from a noisy employee to social media, or when it comes to an outdoor workspace, critters that crawl, buzz, or fly. Depending on the nuisance, you can take precautions to eliminate these pests.

Ready to Give Your Team the Best Outdoor Workspace Under the Sun?

You don’t need a sprawling office building with a rooftop terrace or first-floor garden to give your team the outdoor space they need. Allocating several days per month to outdoor, collaborative activities is a fun way to reap the benefits of nature during the workday, while also developing and honing key soft skills your employees need to succeed.

TeamBonding’s outdoor team-building activities allow your employees to work on their communication skills, delegation, problem-solving, and teamwork skills–to name a few–all in the great outdoors. Even if you don’t have access to an unused roof-top terrace, you can still get creative and offer an outdoor workspace setup they’ll enjoy.

Anna Webber

Team Contributor

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