As organisations look to invest in future workplaces, particularly workspaces which support health and wellbeing, outdoor spaces are increasingly being seen as a viable extension of the office. Research shows that nature is positive for employee well-being and restoration and 'biophilia' (humans’ connection to nature and nature mimicking elements) is increasingly prominent within workplace design. But, are outdoor workplaces beneficial?
This research broadens the thinking around future workspaces to consider how outdoor workspaces could be used to extend "the office". During COVID-19 we saw an increase in people taking their work outside to third workspaces, such as parks and gardens, is this beneficial to workers and could this be extended more generally? This research uses audio diaries, surveys, interviews and photographic methods to gather insights from employees on their use and experiences of outdoor workspaces.
Initial findings show that the mental well-being benefits of being able to access outdoor space within which to work are positive. The feel of nature (e.g., sun, wind) on the skin is a vital component of this positive outcome and one which is difficult to replicate indoors. Furthermore, memories of time spent in nature appear to be important to individuals and these have a bearing on their choice of where to spend time outdoors. In terms of tasks completed outside early findings show that people can focus on their chosen task outdoors both individually and as part of a team. However, it is also apparent that it is not viable to take all tasks outdoors. This would be dependent upon items within the outdoor space such as tables, seating, and shade.
Workspace at the office does not have to be just indoors. There is an opportunity to find a different way to work at the office which allows people to take their work outdoors if they feel the need or indeed choose to do so.
Lead Researcher: Sarah Holland (Doctoral Researcher)