The Great Outdoors: Transforming Work from the Inside Out

The opposition between life and form assumes spatial expression as opposition between outside and inside. — Mies Van Der Rohe

A few weeks ago, we posted a well-received blog on amenities being offered by corporations. One area we wanted to explore further is The Great Outdoors. Bike trails, walking trails, outdoor eating spaces, and outdoor working spaces are being pushed to the limits. The office goes well beyond the station and even the office building. Now you can find employees biking around campus—even through buildings—wellness, creative thinking, and variety of working styles have forced the furniture world to evolve products beyond the confines of the interior workspace.

People in the U.S. spend about 90% of their time indoors, according to the USGBC, but that’s not a good thing. Spending too much time inside can cause what health experts call “nature deficit disorder”—which manifests itself in symptoms like depression or anxiety. Spending time outdoors reduces stress level, lowers blood pressure, improves immune function, and can even increase productivity, focus, and creativity.

Outdoor workspaces are more than a luxury for workers. The health benefits alone of working outside can certainly explain why outdoor amenities are becoming more common in the American workplace.

If you are considering creating an outdoor workspace, here are a few general guidelines to follow when selecting outdoor products, as well as some go-to products WorkspaceVision loves to use outside.

The Elements

When selecting products, keep in mind the elements/weather the products will need to endure.

Sun—Products that will be used in the sun should include UV protectants to help prevent—or reduce the speed of—fading in direct sunlight. If the product is made of a polypropylene material, UV protectants are generally part of the material solution. If the product is coated or painted, verify if UV-cured options exist.

Wind—Blow me over! Yes, almost anything can be lifted in high winds, so make sure any outdoor products can withstand storms and strong wind gusts. Specific outdoor products have options to add water or sand to provide additional weight. Make sure umbrellas are secured or can be dropped inside of a table or bench application. Caution on glass tops: it only takes one hail storm to watch your investment shatter!

Heat—Make sure products do not have elements that hold heat in. Any exposed raw metal materials burn to the touch. Pay special attention to this factor in areas where elderly or youth would place hands to get in or out of benching, seating, and childrens’ play equipment.

Water—Produces should not have small gaps at connection points, rough welding joints, or untreated finishes that will capture water and rust or rot over time.

Humidity—Wood products should be consistent with natural materials found in very hot, humid places. This will help extend the life of the product when exposed to the elements.

Outdoor furniture is an investment. To ensure the space is well designed, do not overlook proper trash receptacles, planters, and architectural coverings. These help complete the overall aesthetic and functionality of the space.

As we previously pointed out in the amentities blog, in today’s work environment, technology is king. Even in the outdoor environment, people want to be connected. Make sure WiFi reaches outdoor workspaces and that outdoor outlets are accessible.

As with any amenity space, take time to think through the intended use of the space, the performance of the products, and the branded aesthetics to ensure the space is well-used.

Outdoor Products We Love

We love when designers take the ordinary and make it extraordinary! Here are few that have done just that!

Knoll Outdoor Collection—Knoll is a leader in modern outdoor furniture and continues to pump out new designs and reinvent the classics. Richard Schultz, Bertoia, Maya Lin, Topiary, Frank Gehry Twist, Skeleton are a few of the names you’ll find in the outdoor collection by Knoll.

Janus et Cie—The definitive source for site, garden, and casual furnishings. An industry leader in luxury interiors and outdoor fabric and furnishings since 1978. Janus et Cie offers exquisite, well-designed outdoor products.

Sandler Seating— Since1989, has been distributing Italian designed furniture for the restaurant, hospitality, and contract markets in the UK and U.S. Many of the Sandler Seating products are rated for outdoor use.