Is an outdoor office in the future for your company? It might be if designers like Jonathon Olivares have anything to say about it. The mobile work trend has opened up many new buildings as potential workspaces. Employees may find themselves at a café, a coffee shop, a library, or even a shopping mall, checking email or performing other work-related tasks. Many of these facilities now expect that people will be using smart devices or laptops on-the-go and provide power outlets, charging stations, Wi-Fi, seating, and low worksurfaces to support these activities. But one massive space that’s been largely overlooked as a potential work zone is the great outdoors.
Working Outside the Box
In temperate regions of the United States, an open air office might attract a great deal of interest. That’s a future that Olivares has envisioned in some detail in his recent installation “The Outdoor Office”. The artistic 3-dimensional experimental models for this exhibit were featured at NeoCon 2013 and reside at the Art Institute of Chicago. The architectural components and office furniture for the al fresco workspace were conceived with inspiration from a very wide variety of sources in both the entertainment and office design communities.
While the idea of an outdoor working environment was originally met with disbelief by one of Olivares’ clients, the designer held firm to the notion that this future would become a reality. In fact, it’s already become common to see people working outdoors in good weather, making use of park benches, picnic tables, or whatever furniture is at hand. It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine offices taking advantage of their own outdoor real estate. Front lawns and landscaped areas could be equipped as flexible workspaces with furnishings that support focused work, collaboration, education, socialization, and presentation. Companies like Herman Miller and Knoll already have extensive collections of furniture that support work outdoors. Knoll’s line even features chairs by Olivares himself.
Considerations for Outfitting the Outdoor Office
Companies seeking to expand outside need to think about providing shade structures, orienting the partially covered workspaces to catch the breeze, and ensuring all materials can withstand local weather conditions. An outdoor office in New Orleans might need mildew resistant materials and additional ventilation to cope with humidity. However, the benefits of increased outdoor access for improving mood, creativity, productivity, and satisfaction for employees might be well worth the investment.