When you think about your workplace, your mind probably goes to your work desk, meeting rooms, and lunch area – the parts where you spend the majority of your day. But there is an underutilised and underappreciated part of your working area that probably doesn’t get as much time with you as it should. We’re talking about use of your business’s outdoor space.
It’s true, the outdoor space is often one of the most overlooked assets available to a business. Take a show of hands and you’ll find that the vast majority of staff love the sunshine and the great outdoors – so if you’ve got space available that allows them to enjoy some time outside, it only makes sense to use it.
In this article, we will explore how companies can make better use of their outdoor spaces, both for hosting memorable corporate events and enhancing day-to-day operations. By harnessing the power of nature, fresh air, and natural light, businesses can transform their outdoor areas into versatile, inviting spaces that foster creativity, productivity, and a sense of well-being among employees.
Assess your space
The first thing to say is that clearly, every outdoor space is different. Depending on the specifics of your business property, your space might be anything from a sprawling garden area with countryside views, to a balcony overlooking the noisy city. It is for this reason that your first task is always going to be carrying out an assessment of your space.
If you want to understand the best ways to use a space, you need to understand its strengths and weaknesses. The following suggestions on this list can be a great way to use your outdoor space, but they won’t be right for every company, or every business property. It is always best to use your space in a way that is going to maximise enjoyment for everyone.
Encourage dining outdoors
Too often, the idea of the ‘working lunch’ has become prevalent in the office environment with workers hunched over their computers trying to avoid spilling salad dressing over their keyboard, or wolfing down a sandwich in between meetings. It probably goes without saying that this is not the best way for staff to be eating while at work.
In fact, there is good evidence to show that eating outdoors is a great way not only to allow workers to feel more relaxed in their working environment and reduce stress – but also to help your team bond. If you have an outdoor space, it could be a great idea to add tables and chairs that make it easy for staff to sit together and enjoy their lunch break.
Could you use your business’s outdoor space as a meeting room?
It is often agreed that modern workers spend too much time in meetings. Indeed, it is estimated that staff waste over five working days a year in relatively ‘pointless’ meetings. And this is made all the worse by the fact that much of this time is spent in dreary and uninteresting meeting rooms that are unlikely to inspire or motivate them.
Perhaps it could be a great idea for your business to look at the possibility of holding some of your meetings in an outdoor space. Clearly, this isn’t something that you can do every day, but take a look at the weather, and consider whether it might be a great idea to ditch the desks and sit outside in the sun.
With so many staff working from laptops or tablets, it’s probably the case that you don’t need access to a desktop PC to run your meeting. And being outside can foster a sense of well-being that might not be provided by a meeting room. If you are lucky enough to have the facility to take a short walk from the office, walking while talking can be very conducive for energising a team catch up, and also offers people more space to express themselves away from office confine.
Promote your space
If you have clients visiting, it’s a smart idea to show them around the office and give them an idea of the day-to-day running of your business. But too many companies don’t bother showing off their outdoor space. In fact, this can be a great place to end the tour of your building, especially if the sun is shining.
Investing in some high quality outdoor furniture that is built to withstand all weather, will pay dividends in terms of visual appeal and longevity of use. There will also be the showcase element for visiting clients, where you can invite them to sit down and see the softer side of what matters within the company. They are almost certain to come away feeling more positive about your business if you have been able to impress them with a pleasant outdoor area.
Ideal for team building
Sometimes businesses believe that all team building activities need to take place far away from the office. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it can mean the expense of hiring a venue and the logistical challenge of getting all of your staff there. But have you considered the option of using your outdoor space?
If you have a garden area or even a large terrace, this can be a great space to bring staff together without them feeling like they are within the confines of work. It’s easier to bond with teammates and enjoy some fun activities together outside, and can be so much easier to organise when people are already on-site, rather than needing to traverse to an alternative venue. This really is worth looking into for your next team day.
While it is not particularly conventional, there are now businesses that are opting to allow staff to spend more of their working day outdoors. Once again, this is weather dependent, but it is easy to see the potential advantages that can be gained from allowing work outside; whether that’s a boost in productivity or simply something that adds a little something different to the week.
Encouraging staff to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine (when it’s there!) is completely worth doing. Why not build a vitamin D and breath of fresh air slot into the diary, when the weather forecast favours it. If your business isn’t too sure about it, you should consider a trial to see how it makes a difference to staff.
Host a corporate party
If you have an especially large outdoor space, it could be the perfect venue for your next corporate party. Once again, this is a chance to show off your space with networking events and share time with your clients and suppliers. Likewise the opportunity for staff to mingle and socialise in a way that is different to their normal working routine, allows then to view their office time as being both industrious and friendly as the time allows.
By carefully assessing and designing outdoor spaces, businesses can create versatile environments that cater to both corporate events and day-to-day activities. These spaces not only offer somewhere to sit in the sun, but they have a surprising effect on productivity and creativity that can only benefit the company.
We also have an article on great ideas on how to choose the best team building activities to boost employee wellbeing.