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Earlier this year, outdoor retailer L.L. Bean embraced their love for the alfresco way of life and set up a temporary office located in a New York City park. The pop up contained all of the typical components of most office spaces — including desks, swivel chairs, laptops and WiFi — but was completely open on all sides with a canopy overhead to shield employees from any potential bad weather.
What’s the purpose of this kind of setup? Most would think it’s initiated for a healthy change of scenery, but the technical term is encouraging biophilic design, bringing the outdoors indoors and taking interior spaces outside. Bringing elements of nature into the office (like plants) has always been a little easier to accommodate for most startups. Moving entire teams from their interior workstations to work outdoors comes with its own unique challenges, even though there are big benefits (such as increased productivity) to the process.
Ready to stop daydreaming about the blue skies outside your office window and get the chance to sit beneath them by working outdoors?
Here’s what you need to strategize before venturing out.
Determine if your office is able to make the move
Studies have shown that workers spend 93 percent of their day inside of a building or vehicle. If you do decide to go outside, it’s bound to cause a bit of culture shock at first because it’s a major step away from routine.
Plan ahead for how the move will impact every department, as well as your overall business. There will be some team members that will be able to pack up their laptops and chargers and set up on a picnic table at a moment’s notice. Others will have more equipment to lug with them or work in positions that ultimately require them to be indoors. Every aspect of the business itself should also be taken into consideration, too. If you run a photography business, for example, there will be some days when you will need to shoot inside the studio and can’t leave.
Pay attention to the logistics before getting started, otherwise, your “big move” might wind up turning into a half day experiment outside that went awry.
Figure out what your setup needs to sustain itself and your team
This goes beyond determining the workspace itself and touches on aspects of office interiors we take for granted. Where will you use the restroom? Will there be a refrigerated space available to store lunches? How can you brew coffee? Will there be outlets available to charge electronics?
Don’t forget about internal aspects as well as the physical ones. Wherever you’re going, you will need to make sure the makeshift office is in a place where employees can work comfortably and peacefully. Avoid cramming everyone together tightly into sitting at one table or working out of areas where noisy construction is going on nearby or gardens where allergies could easily flare up.
If all else fails, bring the outdoors inside
Taking a business entirely outdoors is a big task for any startup to undertake, with rules and restrictions that vary from state to state about public places you can and cannot have a presence at. The climate in your state might wind up dictating whether or not this is feasible, too.
Despite the time and energy that goes into creating outdoor workspaces, it does pay off in the long run for your employees. Nature is the best distraction for ensuring team members stay productive. Observing natural surroundings allows them to “cool down” and get inspired before resuming the task at hand.
If long-term outdoor work spaces don’t work out for you, don’t get discouraged. Do what you can to bring more of the great outdoors into your office. Open up windows (when possible), turn off overhead lighting to let the natural light in, and establish lounge areas that are comfortable, full of leafy green plants. Make it a point to take a field trip outside every now and then to work on particularly beautiful days — your employees will enjoy the time spent in nature!