The pond is cool and still. The trees sway gently. The walking paths curve invitingly over rolling green hills. Every now and then, some form of wildlife peaks out to catch some sun.
No, it’s not a nature preserve. It’s the grounds of your average suburban corporate headquarters. And chances are, there are no people milling about. The place is completely deserted because the employees are hiding out in the sterile, overly air-conditioned office buildings. What is wrong here?
At NeoCon, the annual contract furniture industry exposition in Chicago, someone recently dared to ask: Why don’t developers make better use of the premium outdoor space that surrounds their properties?
As Elijah Brumback, a reporter for Michigan Business, writes, “Over the years, companies have concentrated on how work is accomplished within an office. But while they’ve provided new office designs to accommodate the mobile workforce, they haven’t paid the same attention to spaces outside the office buildings.”
Furniture and industrial designers, however, are now illustrating the value of outdoor office space. Instead of treating it as an afterthought, they are considering what kind of work can be done outdoors and how products can meet the needs of a workforce that is increasingly diverse, digitized and on-the-go.
Well Design’s Workaway outdoor pod, for instance, offers an alternative to the cramped cubicle with a cut-out cubic design that can be positioned in parks, plazas and anywhere in between. It features a built-in seat, a work surface and shade, is equipped with WiFi, and can be reserved ahead of time by checking in on a smartphone app.
Outdoor workspace offers the fresh air and change of scenery known for helping humans be more productive. It sounds appealing, but is it right for your company?
Before hopping on this latest trend, think through the pros and cons as discussed over at the AMEX Open Forum.