Wanting Better Employee Environments, Some Companies Look Outdoors

Outdoor-Office-Jonathan-Olivares-2The business work landscape is quickly changing, and not just because of technology. The employee environments in which people are working are constantly morphing as well. The recession that began in 2009 forced many companies to cut back and rethink what was really necessary in order to get business done. Many businesses chose to downsize their workforces and rely instead on 1099 consultants. Others chose to rent less square footage, and seemingly overnight an “enthusiasm” for open or collaborative office spaces cropped up. A greater trend towards flexibility has emerged whether for the aptly named “flex time,” working at home, or job sharing. And now designers and developers are looking at another option: working outside.

Different spaces offer different opportunities for socialization and exploration of the creative, and while some companies would prefer to encourage other things within their corporate culture, for the right kind of employee, some companies are willing to make the investment in zen.

In 2012 designer Jonathan Olivares put together an art exhibition entitled The Outdoor Office in which he reimagined workers, as portrayed in popular culture, in outdoor settings. Some may view this type of artistic expression as absurd, but how many cubicle dwellers would love to feel real sunshine on their faces while they type on their computers – or at least have that option part of the time? Humans and nature evolved together and people have spent most of their working histories outdoors. It’s only in the last century that desks, fluorescent lighting, and ergonomic furniture became staples of a certain kind of working experience.

Of course there are challenges. No matter how carefully and deliberately landscaped an exterior is, there are weather, seasonal changes, and safety to be considered, as well as access to technology and its security. And a backlash against open spaces has arisen in the past several years with many claiming that they are not, in fact, more productive or collaborative without walls.

Still, it’s not hard to imagine the kinds of companies known for offering unique incentives to their workers – companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook – moving from climate-controlled environments into…climate. Access to nature is well known to cause people’s stress levels to lower, and sunlight is the healthiest light. It’s probably not very feasible for most businesses to put out more than a patio for their employees, but along with living roofs and company gardens, outdoor work environments may be part of our corporate future. If Herman Miller is now making outdoor Eames chairs, can outdoor desks and cabinets be far behind?

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog, Entrepreneur-Resources.net.

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One comment

  1. I really like the idea of an outdoor office. As someone who has worked in a desk job for a while, I can definitely appreciate why people would want to have a change in scenery. Like you mention, of course there are challenges – weather is the big one I can think of first. But I’d be interested to see where it goes in the future. Thanks for sharing!

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