Turning an outdoor space into a functional work area has been a trend in the corporate world for years. The mental and physical benefits of giving employees access to natural daylight, fresh air, and a change of scenery have been well documented.

As a global pandemic turned the working world on its head, outdoor office space has suddenly become more important than ever. Capitalizing on space outside of your organization’s walls has several major benefits:

  • More usable square footage for employees to spread out and maintain social distance
  • Access to more fresh air, which dilutes airborne pathogens, like COVID-19, and helps prevent the spread (not to mention, it makes us feel healthier to take a deep breath of fresh air)
  • A boost in mood, creativity, and productivity—all welcome benefits as employees return to a very different, perhaps anxiety-inducing, world

So how do you get the most out of your outdoor space?

Evaluate Your Outdoor Space

First, take a creative look at your property to determine what space you have and how you want to use it. If you find you have room for sprawling tables and an entire outdoor lounge, fantastic. But if we’re being realistic, most offices don’t have this kind of space. However, if you have room for even one table and chairs, you can create a brand new meeting spot, reservable workstation, or lunch area for your team.

Particularly in urban areas, rooftops can be a great way to add outdoor square footage to an office building where horizontal space is limited. Making rooftop space usable and safe may require a bit more work, as it is held to similar building codes as an interior room in your office. For example, side rails or barriers must be a certain height, there must be a means of egress, and it must be structurally able to support the weight of people. Be sure to consult a trusted architecture and engineering partner when building out rooftop space.

Schmidt Associates Roof with Greenspace

Our Indy Office’s Greenroof

Incorporate Necessary Technology

In order to make the space useful as a true extension of your office, be sure to provide the basic technology tools that employees need. This includes:

  • Ensuring Wi-Fi adequately extends to cover the space
  • Running power to the space if possible, with outlets to plug in laptops and phones
  • Making the area(s) reservable within your conference room booking system

Add Flexible Furniture

Maximize the space you have available with flexible tables and seating that can be used for both solo work and group collaboration (at a safe distance, of course). If you have the space, a combination of high- and low-top tables where people can both stand and sit and work is ideal. Expandable tables, moveable benches, and stackable stools all can help make the most out of a small space.

FCMA Louisville Flexible Office Space Furniture

FCMA Louisville Collaboration Space

Protect from the Elements

The more comfortable you can make the space for employees, the greater return you will get out of your investment. Minimize distractions and maximize usability by protecting the area from the elements. Consider:

  • Sun shades or umbrellas to reduce glare on device screens
  • Barriers to protect from wind
  • Noise control if nearby traffic is a concern
  • Cover from rain if possible

Highlight Nature

Access to nature and a break in office scenery gives employees a visual and mental breather, helping them de-stress and refocus. Unfortunately, we don’t all have lakefront views to escape to between meetings.

If picturesque natural features aren’t abundant outside your office, add your own greenery to your outdoor workspace. A few potted plants can enhance privacy and provide the calming qualities of nature. Try plants native to your area, which will grow best with less maintenance.

If you don’t have the resources to create the perfect space right now, something is often better than nothing! Start simple to get a sense of demand for the space from your employees, and make improvements as you are able.

Regenstrief Institute Indianapolis Headquarters Outdoor Seating Space

Regenstrief Institute HQ Outdoor Seating Area

Hoosier Energy HQ

Hoosier Energy HQ Outdoor Social Space


Need help creating a great outdoor workspace? Contact us for more ideas.