With the current emphasis on health and social distancing, outdoor workspaces are certainly more relevant than ever. Not only do outdoor workplaces provide many health benefits for employees and an ROI for companies, but they also allow employees to be socially distanced and enjoy the fresh air that can slow the spread of disease. In this article, we’ll share ideas for building functional and beautiful outdoor workplaces.
Too hot, too cold, or too windy, and employees will stay inside. Although we can’t eliminate undesirable weather, we can make the outdoor experience enjoyable. Here are some strategies to keep your employees comfortable in your outdoor workplace:
Decks and open joint paving systems provide a level paving area and allow for fast drainage.
Pergolas, shade structures, and awnings create privacy, help with wind, glare, solar gain, and protect from the weather.
Panel and trellis screens, curtains, and hedges create privacy and help with wind, noise, glare, solar gains, and visual distractions.
Heating lamps placed strategically throughout will keep employees warm in cooler weather.
Fans and light misters placed strategically throughout will keep employees cool in warmer weather.
Power and Technology
Providing for data connectivity is critical. For most of us, plugging into a laptop, see details on a TV screen, writing on a whiteboard, or even turn on a light is essential to get the work done. Here are some strategies to keep your employees productive:
Power and data receptacles can be incorporated into walls, planting areas, light pole bases, and outdoor furniture.
WIFI can be installed to provide exterior coverage.
A movable technology cart or wall will create outdoor meeting spaces on either side of the cart/wall. These can be used to make smaller rooms or be rolled-back for larger events. The technology cart/wall can include a display monitor, whiteboards, conferencing phone, wifi extender, and storage.
Defining Space / Design Details
The fun part comes when defining the space. Whether the walls are made of green hedges or the area is outlined by floor level changes, both form and function should be considered. Here are some ideas to make your workplace both beautiful and well-designed:
Half-in, half-out spaces create a larger, more flexible meeting “room” that allows for social distancing. When an interior meeting room lines up to an exterior wall, a roll-up door can replace the wall, creating a half-in, half-out conference room.
Existing exterior walls can host technology, lighting, power, and data. Using exterior walls for conference rooms will make developing weather protection easier.
Evergreen hedges are great for defining areas and creating privacy.
Bamboo is excellent for creating screens. As bamboo is highly invasive; it’s best to plant bamboo in containers.
Panel and trellis screens, curtains, and hedges are lovely ways to define rooms and other areas. They’re also an excellent way to create privacy, break the wind, and reduce visual and noise distractions.
Furniture can include both reconfigurable and fixed pieces. A variety of furniture options provides the user with choices to support their work activity, whether it is time to focus, meet, or socialize
Reconfigurable weatherproof seating that is lightweight and mobile will allow meeting spaces to be configured informally and meet social distancing standards. Stackable seating often comes with storage carts that will make moving larger groups of chairs easy.
Fountains can provide a beautiful ambiance and curb external noise distractions.
A variety of materials can work together to create an engaging environment. Wood, stone, and warm color tones can make the outdoor workplace inviting.
Expanding your garden can help connect employees with the outdoors. Larger plants are great for creating privacy and act as wind and noise breaks. Well-vegetated sites with a thick mulch layer also work to reduce dust.
Building an outdoor space takes careful consideration. Most notably, it’s best first to consider weather protection, power, technology, defining the space, and the design details. It takes an experienced team to bring an outdoor workspace to life. At Hillhouse, we collaborate closely with the design team, landscape architects, and subcontractors to build the best project possible space for our clients. Are you considering an outdoor workplace? Hillhouse and the collaborating groups below welcome the opportunity to discuss your next project.