Strategies for Activating Outdoor Workspaces

As pandemic restrictions loosen and employees return to the office, many building owners and employers have an opportunity to create a better work-life experience by developing productive outdoor work environments.

“Outdoor spaces have always been relevant, but the pandemic has heightened the need for spaces that support the workplace goals,” says LPA Director of Commercial Nick Arambarri. “These spaces have real value because they become an extension of your interior space. You may even be able to reduce your interior footprint with a well-designed outdoor space.”

Activating outdoor spaces such as a balcony, roof or courtyard can help wary employees feel more comfortable as they come back to the office. Taking work outside can also help boost productivity and create healthy, safe environments at a time when some people may feel uncomfortable working indoors.

“Designing areas where employees feel safe and productive is more important than ever,” says LPA Director of Landscape Kari Kikuta. “Activating outdoor environments can help support the different dimensions of wellness—physical, mental, spiritual, intellectual and environmental.”

But it takes more than a few chairs to create a productive outdoor work environment. As companies analyze their workplace and identify exterior assets, a few key strategies can unlock the potential of an outdoor workspace.

“Designing areas where employees feel safe and productive is more important than ever,”

1) Integrate technology

Adequate technology is essential to support an outdoor work zone. Strengthening Wi-Fi signals with additional outdoor antennas, adding power sources with charging stations and providing a large screen with inputs for presentations will improve the experience.

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The transition from working inside to outdoors is seamless for employees at The Vine in Orange County.

2) Open underutilized spaces

Underutilized office space can be opened to the outdoors, expanding interior space and creating natural ventilation. The easier access encourages people to take work outside and expand their environment. On 3250 Olcott, folding glass doors were added to an existing office space, creating an open-air terrace with views of the surrounding trees.

At 3250 Olcott, folding glass doors open to the alternative outdoor work setting in the trees.

3) Select agile furniture

Consider choosing furniture that can be easily moved and arranged to promote privacy, social distancing and different work activities. Reconfigurable furniture adds flexibility. Chairs and tables that can be easily moved outdoors serve multifunctional purposes. And don’t skimp on extra cushions for those long meetings.

A menu of options gives users the freedom to arrange and adjust the furniture to their preferences and type of activity.

“People love the ability to change their seating to accommodate their needs,” says LPA Furniture Services Project Manager Rebecca Snellen. “The more variation, the more well received.”

4) Provide thermal comfort

You can’t ignore the elements or expect the space to be available only a few days of the year, when the weather is perfect. Extra shade structures or a fire pit can help modulate temperatures. For the welcoming plaza of 701 B Street, an office tower in downtown San Diego, LPA designed a shade trellis inspired by the movement of a Manta Ray as it glides through the ocean. The structure, enhanced by a dramatic 65-foot, high-glazing glass wall and water feature, creates a calming and welcoming environment, in addition to a highly functional space.

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The renovation of 701 B Street’s welcome plaza dramatically increased spaces to work, relax or collaborate.

5) Maximize natural experiences

Exposure to nature helps boost mood, productivity and relieve stress. Enhancing an outdoor space with planting, natural materials and water elements can help create a healthy environment for employees to accomplish their tasks. For Towers @ 2ND, an office complex in Santa Clara, LPA designed tiered, built-in wood benches for outdoor seating. Mature trees provide ample shade and terraced planters made the space comfortable and inviting.

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Large, mature trees provide shade above a variety of outdoor seating options at Towers@2nd.

6) Curate entertainment

Don’t take for granted the space will be used. Cooking grills, large screen TV’s and games can draw people to the outdoor spaces. For MerchSource, LPA designed an outdoor kitchen for employees to prep meals, socialize and host small events. The headquarters also features an outdoor bar complete with drinks on tap, TV screens and a variety of seating designed for gatherings.

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Entertainment is just steps away at MerchSource’s headquarters where employees can enjoy an outdoor bar, TV screens and dining areas.