How to Create an Outdoor Office Space
Smartphones, tablets, laptops and Wi-Fi have made it possible for us to work around the clock and almost anywhere.
We can check our email at the beach, take a business call while camping and put the finishing touches on our budget report while we commute to the office.
Technology has effectively expanded our work days and has taken away almost every excuse for not being able to do pretty much anything we can do at the office wherever we are at the moment.
For many employees and business owners, this has positively affected our ability to connect with coworkers and clients whenever necessary, but it has negatively affected our ability to enjoy work-free weekends and relaxing vacations.
While technological advances may have turned many of us into around-the-clock workers, they also provide us with freedoms never before thought possible.
For example, video conferencing, team clouds and web-accessed email have made it possible for parents to work from home when a child is sick and for companies to cut costs and improve employee morale by allowing their staff to work from home part (or all) of their work week.
All of these things that make it possible to work at the beach or work from home also makes it possible to take our offices outside, and there are plenty of reasons you should consider signing on to this growing trend.
11 Reasons to Move Your Office Outside
Have you ever noticed that employees usually go outside when they have a break?
Or perhaps you have noticed how you feel better when you do something as simple as stepping outside for some fresh air — particularly if you work in a office building.
That is because we, as humans, like being outdoors and feel better when we are around nature, even if it is just a plant on our desk or a tree in the parking lot.
It is common knowledge that we feel happier and more relaxed after a day at the beach or in the mountains, but we do not have to rely on common sense to know that nature is good for us; research shows that this is true.
In fact, studies repeatedly show that nearby nature makes for happier employees, more resilient children and adults who enjoy life more.
For example, one study completed at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and published in 2003 in Environment and Behavior (Volume 35, Number 3, pages 311-330) found that children with views of and access to plenty of nature were able to cope with stress better than children who had less access to nature.
Here are 11 more reasons you should consider an outdoor office:
1. You can conserve energy and lower your carbon footprint by working outdoors in the sunlight.
2. Studies show spending time outdoors helps us think more clearly and make fewer mistakes.
3. Being close to nature can increase productivity.
4. Employees with views of nature report that they like their jobs more and enjoy life more than their counterparts without views of nature.
5. Spending time outdoors can improve concentration.
6. Stay-at-home parents who also work from home can increase productivity while keeping an eye on the kids while they play outside.
7. Having an outdoor office can help home-based workers separate their work space from their living space.
8. Research shows that people who spend more time outdoors are generally healthier than those who spend less time outdoors.
9. Working outside can help home-based workers accomplish more by avoiding distractions.
10. You may find you need to take fewer breaks when working in a natural, relaxing environment outside.
11. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), most Americans spend about 90% of their lives indoors.
The problem with that (or at least one of the problems) is that the EPA also reports that there is usually two to five times more pollutants in indoor air than there is in outdoor air.
In some cases, the level of pollutants in indoor air can be as much as 100 times higher than the level of pollutants found in outdoor air.
This definitely supports the idea that working outdoors may be better for your health.
Where to Place Your Outdoor Office
An outdoor office can be created just about anywhere, particularly if it is mostly portable.
If all you need to work outdoors is your smartphone and a laptop, than you can easily take your office with you wherever you go and make any spot an al fresco workspace.
However, if you also need a printer, files or other supplies, you will need a dedicated space that is well stocked and offers the conveniences of a traditional indoor office space.
An outdoor office can be placed in a courtyard, on a rooftop, on a covered patio, in a gazebo, on a balcony or even in an extra parking space outside of an office building.
A covered patio, a deck with a shade canopy or an area with some other form of protection from sun and rain is best.
Here are some things to consider when deciding where to place your outdoor office:
• Your outdoor office needs to be in close proximity to electrical outlets.
• You will need protection from the sun, rain and wind to work comfortably.
• If you will be working when the sun is not out, you will need nearby lighting.
• Your office will need to be close enough to your home or office building to be in range for Wi-Fi.
• Glare from the sun will make using tablets or laptops difficult, so position your office away from direct sunlight.
• You will need an area that can be secured to ensure the safety of your office equipment and files.
• If you will be working with papers or electrical cords, you should avoid areas near natural grass lawns or other landscaping features that require regular irrigation.
If you are creating an outdoor office space at home, an unused side yard may be the perfect getaway where you can avoid distractions while spending time outdoors.
However, if your side yard has barren walls on all sides and is paved with concrete without a plant in sight, you will likely find that working in this environment is not much more satisfying than working indoors.
Part of the point of being outdoors is being close to nature, so make sure your office is located in an area where you can see trees, plants or other greenery.
For at-home outdoor offices, using an existing outdoor living space is usually the most affordable, most convenient and easiest way to start working outdoors.
If one of your outdoor living areas will be doing double duty as an office, make sure you invest in a cabinet where you can store your files, supplies and equipment when not in use.
Just like when you are working in an indoor living space, it is important to be able to put your work away when the work day ends.
This keeps your work safe from pets and kids and helps you keep your work life separate from your home life.
How to Make Your Outdoor Office Work for You
The easiest way to create an outdoor workspace equipped with power outlets and modern comforts is to purchase a pre-fab structure or hire a contractor to build one for you.
These structures, commonly called office pods, provide excellent protection from the elements, the security of having a door that closes and locks, and all of the comforts of an indoor office in an outdoor setting.
Most of these pre-fabricated offices look like single-room buildings that are about the size of a large garden shed, but they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and styles to meet your needs.
However, these luxurious workspaces are not in every homeowners budget, and some folks may not have the space required to place one of these structures in their yard.
For those of us who do not have the room or budget required for a permanent office structure in our yards, any covered area can be transformed into a comfortable office where you can be productive while enjoying time outdoors.
Here are 10 tips for making your outdoor workspace work for you:
1. Wi-Fi is a must if you need to send emails or go online, so make sure you have a great Wi-Fi signal.
2. Set up lighting before you need it so that you will not have to break your rhythm to scramble for lights when the sun goes down.
3. Be aware of the potential for glare on your screen and situate your seating to take advantage of shade.
4. Avoid getting too much sun, and wear sunscreen if you plan on spending time in the sun.
5. Plan for a heat source if you will be working outdoors in colder weather. A patio fireplace or patio heater will work great for this.
6. Include counter or table space in your office design to make sure you have plenty of room for spreading out papers or working on projects.
7. Make sure your office is well equipped with a printer, scanner, fax machine or whatever other type of office equipment you may need to enhance your productivity.
8. Stock your patio office with the office supplies you need, a phone charger, a waste basket and other items you would normally keep in a workspace to avoid making time-wasting trips indoors to throw things away or grab your charger when your battery is low.
9. If you have office equipment or files, make sure you have a secure location for them to avoid them being stolen or damaged by water or wind.
10. If you do not already have a nearby outdoor kitchen, consider including a mini fridge or coffeemaker to avoid trips inside to grab a drink.
How to Create an Outdoor Office: Final Thoughts
Being close to nature rejuvenates us, makes us happier and healthier, and can increase our focus and our productivity.
Whether you are interested in a permanent space that you will use on a daily basis or a secluded getaway to use on the rare occasions you bring work home with you, an outdoor office can provide you with a healthier, more relaxing place to work.
For those who work from home, an outdoor office can provide an alternative workspace where you can take a break from your indoor office or take advantage of impromptu opportunities to enjoy great weather while still completing your work.
We go outside to calm down, to think over big decisions, to clear our heads and regain focus, and to reenergize.
It just makes sense that spending more time outdoors would be better for our health and wellness, and — according to the research — better for our productivity as well.
Photo Credits (in order of appearance): morgueFile, mcconnors; Devizes Wood Products; OfficePOD; morgueFile, cohdra