The Outside Workspace and Why It’s Important

How About We Take This Meeting, Outside?

An often overlooked workplace environment that is clearly making a statement these days is the outside work space environment.  The days of setting a picnic table or two and a 6’ bench on a concrete pad are just not going to cut it in the category of helping retain employees. Outdoor spaces in the workforce have typically been seen (and used) as a place to eat and take a walk, but there is an increasing demand to look at these spaces as an integral part of the building that is more active, useful and programmable. For example, a lot of companies are including ping pong tables, and other various activities that allow employees to meet over something more engaging. It helps to really get those ideas flowing.

With that said, developers are looking to maximize their real estate, companies want to attract and retain employees, and employees want a stronger connection to the outdoors. Including more non-traditional areas to meet is becoming increasingly popular. It is no longer an afterthought and in some cases outdoor spaces are becoming the organizing principle of siting multiple buildings and creating a true campus environment that encourages social interaction as well as chance meeting encounters. I would be remiss if I did not mention that the flexibility and freedom that technology provides has played a major role in this trend.

 

“Besides being just another workplace amenity, studies have shown that a direct connection to the outside has a positive impact on creative thinking.”

 

What Do They Look Like?

These outdoor work environments are being implemented in a number of looks and feels. Some are designed at a more intimate scale and some are larger. Some are fixed and some are flexible. Although, we are seeing that flexibility and programmability are becoming the higher priority. Some outdoor spaces can even be found in downtown locations, and some are in a more suburban context. The point is, they can be found just about anywhere.

 

Urban Context (Downtown)

I would say that the City is the true outdoor amenity that is comprised of public plazas and parks, shops and outdoor café’s, but how do you program your company events in public spaces?  In the downtown market, whether it’s London or Raleigh, with space being a premium, sometimes the only alternative is the rooftop. There is a steady push to provide rooftop gardens for employees to have company meetings, project meetings or just to work outside on a nice day.

 

Suburban Office Park

From build to suit projects to developer driven projects, we are noticing more and more interest by our clients in creating place-making opportunities outside of the building walls of suburban offices, warehouses, restaurants and schools.  On a recent project we have been asked to retrofit a 1980’s suburban office park utilizing the exterior spaces as the main method in re-branding the office park.  These spaces will be linked and accessible to all of the buildings on campus and will be outfitted with WiFi, specific outdoor classrooms and a green-way connection to the adjacent County Park.

 

Check Out Some of HagerSmith’s Outdoor Workspaces:

 

Tech Company in RTP

A recent project just completed was an internal courtyard for a single tenant office complex. The courtyard was designed to serve as a central Hub of activity for the company. The main portion of the patio is adjacent to the corporate cafeteria and provides outdoor dining for employees.   This is a tech company with employees that work long, odd hours.  The central location provides an opportunity for chance encounters/meetings with employees.  There are a number of activity areas programmed that can be scheduled for meetings, recreation and or lunch. (Yes, you can now reserve a grill to cook your lunch.)  The courtyard overlooks a wildlife interpretation area and is connected to the campus wide trail network. Did I mention the putting green and ping-pong table?

 

Pharma in Cary

The main floor houses the many core functions including a large employee café and training area which opens to a well landscaped patio. The site has a direct connection to the Cary Greenway which provides occupants easy access to walking trails around Lake Crabtree.

 

Pharmaceutical Company in Clayton

How do you connect a new 100,000 square foot Corporate Office Building to an existing manufacturing plant and make it feel like a campus environment?  Close off an existing drive and create a large pedestrian plaza that makes a seamless connection to multiple buildings on the site.  This new plaza now serves as a spine of activity and creates a pleasant experience for employees.  Besides hosting large company functions the new space can be reserved for outdoor meetings, a place to have lunch, make a phone call or get that T.P.S report done.

Whether downtown or in an office park, in both instances, tenants want these spaces to be at a pedestrian scale, programmable, and flexible.  The workforce is demanding them and employers are looking to attract and retain employees.  Taking more meetings outside seems like a win, win to me.

 

With that said…

“I have reserved the outdoor office #1 for our weekly Thursday 3:00 pm meeting…PING – PONG ANYONE?”