Create a Safer Workplace with Outdoor Workspaces
The Post-Pandemic Office of the Future is Outside
It wasn’t long ago that we shared our top tips for creating outdoor workspaces. While the advice remains relevant, what has changed is the urgency. The coronavirus pandemic has taken outdoor workspaces from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for commercial office buildings, employers and business centers looking to reopen and stay open safely. If you’re wondering where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we’ll walk you through all the important considerations.
The New “Open Concept”
It’s time to redefine the open concept office. In fact, you’ll likely find the shift to be a breath of fresh air.
Proponents of the open plan have long lauded the lack of walls as a powerful facilitator of collaboration. Unfortunately, the pandemic has shown that these spaces promote more than just the exchange of ideas; they also promote the exchange of germs. If the open plan office has previously been key to your success, you don’t have to give it up completely. Instead, merge it with the outdoors.
One of the best ways to do that is through biophilic design. Biophilic design is a concept that seeks to integrate natural elements that contribute to human health into our buildings and communities. More than just a single element--- like adding a plant or wood finishes—biophilic design focuses on creating sustained engagement with nature.
Sure, you could embrace biophilic design by opening the office to the outdoors with a retractable wall or glass garage door. But for some buildings, that may not be possible due to constructability, weather, or cost. Luckily, that’s not the only option. Let’s examine the alternatives.
If you’re in an urban environment where outdoor space is a premium, consider transforming your rooftop terrace into an outdoor work environment to promote social distancing and safe meetings. Important considerations include:
- Ergonomic furniture: You’ll want to be sure the outdoor furniture you choose is not only durable, but also comfortable for computer use.
- Shade & Heat: Offices with a four-season climate can stretch the months their rooftop terrace workspace can be used by incorporating outdoor heaters, fireplaces, or fire pits into the design. Similarly, it’s important to also add shade through shade sails, umbrellas, trees, or shade structures, to keep the space inviting through the warmer months. Outdoor fans can assist in keeping temperatures cool and enhancing air circulation as well.
- Plant material: Enlist plant material to create pops of color, and delineate spaces. Hedges, vines, and planters can be used to create privacy, support social distancing, or conceal an unattractive view.
Not looking to make any permanent changes, but have ample outdoor space to use? Consider outdoor pop-up offices or meeting spaces. In more temperate climates, employers and commercial office spaces have experimented with tented outdoor spaces to take advantage of greater air circulation, but that’s just the beginning. The tiny house movement has provided ample inspiration for semi-permanent and moveable structures capable of providing outdoor spaces for small groups of employees. Think modern luxury sheds and renovated shipping containers which look hip, can open completely to the outdoors, and can be outfitted with necessities like power, WIFI and air conditioning.
Create a Courtyard
Whether you have green space between two buildings, or simply an unused patch of grass, it has the potential for an outdoor workspace. Like the rooftop terrace tips above, creating a sense of space and privacy is important.
- Create separation: Utilize changes in grade or erect barriers that delineate the courtyard area as a whole, as well as the individual workspaces and meeting spaces within. Plant material and hardscape can be used for this purpose, or consider outdoor glass walls such as those used on restaurant patios to preserve the view.
- Give it a roof: The options for shelter are endless, and adaptable to your climate. Pergolas and pavilions are great options. Some varieties are even moveable, or feature a modern design that looks like art and enhances the ambiance.
- Power Up: To get the most use out of your courtyard workspace, make electrical outlets plentiful. Some outdoor workspace furniture and lighting stanchions now come with built in power outlets for the ultimate convenience.
While evaluating the choices can feel overwhelming, we can make narrowing them down easier. With in-house design, development, maintenance, and enhancements teams, we have all the expertise you need under one roof.
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