Due to the concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces have now had to come face to face with the various shortcomings of their physical offices and find long-term solutions for them. The primary question on the minds of employers and managers is: How do we make the workplace a safer place for every employee without sacrificing productivity?
During the pandemic, the CDC has advised the public to meet outdoors to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. The outdoors also offers numerous benefits for people in addition to reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19, such as elevated levels of vitamin D in the body and helping improve mood and concentration.
Now, can we reimagine the office in an outdoor setting? Can the office of the future be outdoors?
Some Considerations About Outdoor Offices
Creating an outdoor workplace involves a number of challenges. These considerations largely determine your capacity to create an outdoor office for your team.
1. Determine any health and safety risks.
Outdoor areas are safer against viruses such as COVID-19. However, they still pose their own health risks during different seasons.
For instance, spring and summer are times in which mosquitoes are most active. Mosquito nets and mosquito traps and attractants from Biogents are among the simple solutions to address this problem. Pollen can also pose an issue, especially for employees who have allergies. You can recommend the wearing of masks during pollen season to reduce the risks of allergies acting up.
Consider the possible health concerns that come with building a workspace in your chosen outdoor area and work with your employees to devise the best solutions that address the needs of every person in the team.
2. Look at your Wi-Fi and power capacities.
A major concern when building an outdoor workplace is its capability to accommodate your technical requirements. You need to have sufficient power outlets for every employee to plug in their computers and other devices. You also need access to strong Wi-Fi outdoors.
Check if the location you are eyeing has the capacity to install the features you need to work as you would in an indoor office. Note that this also involves significant investment in your organization to ensure the proper power infrastructure for the volume of employees you have.
3. Have the right facilities nearby.
You need certain facilities in proximity to your outdoor office to keep employees comfortable. For example, restrooms and wash areas are important to have nearby. Especially since COVID-19 highlighted sanitation concerns for many, you need to have visible sanitation stations for everyone’s use.
You should also consider having an outdoor food bar or cafeteria to encourage employees to take their breaks outdoors. Make sure that they do not need to walk long distances to access essential facilities during work hours.
4. Have a weather game plan.
You need a workplace that can withstand different kinds of weather. Invest in durable furniture that will stay functional through hot weather or rainy days.
Consider how to make work areas comfortable also through different temperatures. Have shades and roofs to block the sun during sunny days, and place outdoor cooling systems to keep employees and electronic equipment cool through the workday. It helps to have mature trees in your outdoor space, too, as they naturally offer shade.
Take the example of retail company L.L. Bean, which launched an outdoor pop-up workspace in Boston’s Wharf District Park in 2018. The campaign saw a variety of structures to accommodate employees through meetings, interviews, and other deliverables. Some structures were built like small meeting rooms, which are ideal for days when rain or snow is pouring.
Flexibility Is the Future of Your Office
COVID-19 has opened the eyes of many organizations to the reality that flexibility is a must in the modern-day workplace. Workers want to be in control of their time and have the ability to work remotely and onsite as needed.
Because of this, you have to become more creative with how you utilize your outdoor workplace. It needs to be able to let employees work independently on their tasks, but it also needs areas in which colleagues can come together to brainstorm ideas in a meeting. Since the workplace is outdoors, it is a smart move to also give your venue the ability to transform into an event area for formal gatherings.
As employers and employees learn about the best practices for the kind of work culture you have, you must leave room for your workplace to evolve as the times require. A rigid workplace stagnates, but an organization that remains relevant knows how to respond to challenges and prioritize employee well-being.