Are You Designing an Outdoor Office?

outside office

Outdoor Office Collection from Herman Miller

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.

What The Office Got Right About Office Design

Fans of the popular television program The Office may be surprised to learn that they actually did quite a few things right when it comes down to their layout, design, and furniture selection. Find that a bit hard to believe? Then take a look at these observations, and consider:

  • Optimized Traffic Flow – Next time you watch the show, pay attention to how people move through the office. Access to the front door is easy and open, and sends you right past their corporate gatekeeper. Employees desks are tucked off to the side, close to bathrooms, the break room, etc., without impacting the overall traffic flow through the office itself.
  • Open Pattern – All parts of the layout and office design on The Office feature a modern, open pattern. This facilitates communication and efficiency in your work space, as both employees, visitors, and customers are all able to quickly and easily get where they need to be.

the office cubicle design

So the next time you sit down to catch an episode, pay attention to the way they decided to lay out their office and place their furniture. You may unexpectedly find a tip or two you can appropriate for use where you work.

Choosing the Right Furniture for your New Orleans Office

used office furniture new orleansBuying office furniture may not rank as a top priority when you are worried about launching your new business,  but it does require some attention. After all, this is your foundation, your cornerstone, your centralized locale for all thing business related – and you may also have staff, clients and vendors who will pass through your space.

  • First, make a list of everything the office needs – for comfort as well as functionality. Don’t forget to consult employees about their preferences.
  • Basic needs include:
    • Filing cabinets
    • A book case
    • Trash cans for the office, reception and bathrooms
    • Coat rack and umbrella stand (this is more important than you think!)
    • Desks, chairs and computer stations for all office employees
    • Chairs, lamps and magazine tables for the waiting area
    • A conference table and chairs if needed
    • Break room amenities such as a coffee maker, microwave, etc.
  • Think about computer accessories and storage units, as well as the basics of desks, lamps and chairs. Space limitations may dictate the installation of mutli-use pieces.
  • Ergonomic desks and chairs  can save you aches, pains and future doctor visits. Don’t be a mean boss – make sure all of your employees have just as good working conditions!
  • You need light fixtures that provide moderately bright, uniform illumination. You may also wish to install lamps with focused or “task” lighting so all work areas and computer monitors are well-lit and glare-free.

Determine your budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend for office furniture, and don’t forget that buying cheap is not the same as having a reasonable budget – keep replacement costs in mind.  You can find used office furniture in good shape if you look around. Try the following:

  • Check out estate auctions and university liquidation sales as well as any sort of business that is closing or relocating.
  • Consult with others in your industry who have furnished their own offices for vendor recommendations.
  • Research retail and wholesale houses before making a purchase by Googling them and verifying info with the BBB or CoC.
  • Discount outlets, department stores, retail establishments, furniture refinishers and resale shops also may offer good finds, but go for quality and expect to refinish if needed.
  • Online purchases can incur high shipping costs, but some bargains are available, especially from wholesalers with flat rate shipping.

Your New Orleans office should reflect the professionalism of your company. Good office furniture is the right place to start!

How Can You Use Corner Desks in the Office?

Those itty bitty corner desks are a valuable space saving workstation option when your square footage is limited. These are a popular item for home offices where there isn’t a full room that can be a dedicated workspace. But don’t these mini-desks seem out of place in a traditional office setting? That depends on how you use them.

“Go Sit in the Corner”

These aren’t words any employee wants to hear. A corner desk doesn’t exactly have the same cachet as a corner office – especially since there usually isn’t a view. Office workers pay close attention to how much “real estate” each of their coworkers gets. Being given a tiny desk tucked in a corner could be a blow to employee satisfaction.

However, the size of the desk is just part of the problem. The other big issue is that the worker has to sit with his back to the room. That can feel pretty exposed. No one likes imagining that other people can sneak up on them or look over their shoulder all the time. Then again, if you put a freestanding cubicle panel behind them, it would feel pretty lonely in the corner all alone. So, as a substitute for a regular cubicle with an L or U shaped desk, this design is a non-starter.

The Office Hot Spot

On the other hand, corner desks do make an attractive addition to an office if you have a few workers who are usually mobile and just visit headquarters occasionally. They can use one of these mini-workstations as a touchdown point. Since they’re probably using a laptop or a tablet anyway, the limited surface area and lack of storage space aren’t a problem.

The placement can also be ideal for side by side viewing of a monitor by two or three people. So, a corner desk could well turn into an activity hub for impromptu brainstorming sessions or short presentations. If you install a couple of adjustable tablet holders, you could turn the corner desk into an interactive center for your office!