Outdoor Workspaces: The Greatest Offices of All


The human body craves a connection to nature and all the health-infusing, mood-boosting benefits it offers. Unfortunately, most people live the bulk of their lives indoors. Since the office has become the hub of our work from anywhere world, we tend to spend a lot of our days there.

According to growing research, spending more time outdoors is good for our health. People who live near green space experience lower incidences of many diseases and maladies, including heart disease, diabetes, and mental distress. The connection to natural light, as well, affects the body’s circadian rhythm, which impacts the length and quality of our sleep. Being in nature—even as little as five hours a month, or roughly 10 minutes a day—will help us feel happier and more connected to the world around us.

This research is inspiring more businesses to create opportunities for workers to spend time outdoors during the workday. The payoff is that being outdoors inspires more collaboration and creativity.

“Researchers found that just simply walking around in nature can really help improve cognitive function, attention skills, short-term memory and, creative problem solving,” said John Scott, Senior Design Workplace Strategist at Haworth. “Access to the outdoors and working outdoors can help us really improve all aspects of our lives.”

John led a Haworth Connect session about how designing workspaces with nature in mind is a key to promoting happiness, health, and productivity. He was joined by guests Chris Correll, of Emeco, and Alexis Contant, of JANUS et Cie, who shared trends in outdoor workspaces and how designers have been finding clever ways to bring the outdoors in.

Bringing the Outdoors In… and Vice Versa

As employers are returning to the workplace, more are finding ways to incorporate the outdoors into the workday by designing outdoor workspaces.

The growing demand for outdoor workspaces is tied to biophilic design, the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities. It’s based on the philosophy that humans possess an innate tendency to see connections with nature and other forms of life. Biophilic design has been found to support cognitive function, physical health, and psychological well-being.

“Biophilia is changing the way we work, the way we live, and also the way we operate,” said Chris Correll, Vice President of Sales at Emeco, a company known for its US-made sustainable furniture. “We’ve long intuited that being in nature is good for the mind and the body. It’s vital to keeping us emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy. While we have long seen nature being brought indoors, we now see people moving outdoors and reinforcing that connection with nature.”

“Outdoor working areas that were previously considered a casual amenity are really now becoming a top priority for health, for well-being, and for productivity,” Chris continued. “We really see employers embracing outdoor spaces for meetings and focus work. They’re transferring underutilized gray spaces into vibrant, ecologically friendly landscapes that provide new and engaging experiences for staff to interact.”

High Return on Investment

In a 2019 Gensler workplace study, access to outdoor spaces was among the top five important amenities for the highest value of return. Only innovation hubs/makerspaces and quiet zones ranked higher.

Businesses are finding they need workers back in the office, not just because of a hyperfocus on work and productivity, but also for the interpersonal connection. The essence and the DNA of a brand is directly tied to an employee’s connection to the workplace, as well as its culture and community.

“The type of furniture and the capabilities of that furniture are critical,” said Alexis Contant, JANUS et Cie’s Vice President of Marketing.

“Outdoor furniture—especially furniture for cafeterias—is the most moved furniture in the entire company, so mobility, stackability, and cleanability are critical,” Alexis said. “Outdoor spaces are now becoming the highest premium of return on investment. They are often the first place that an employee, client, or investor sees.