Going outside to get some fresh air has always been a great way to reenergize your workday.
And these days, you can bring your work outdoors with you.
Outdoor office spaces are the latest trend in a string of innovative and ever-evolving solutions for the changing workforce. The rise of the gig economy means on-demand workers now make up a large portion of the workforce (as of 2015, 53 million Americans worked as freelancers), and new technology is enabling companies to hire remote workers in increasing numbers.
With their sleek design and modern amenities, outdoor office spaces are providing workers with new options, as well as a little fresh air.
In downtown Silver Spring, Md., Peterson Companies, a development firm, has opened OUTBOX, a 20-seat outdoor office space inclusive of free wireless internet access and charging stations.
“We considered the many professionals, freelancers and artists in our dense urban district, both working from a traditional office and home—all looking for a way to get out of the confines of their cubicle or office, get some fresh air or inspiration, and have the conveniences of shops and dining at their fingertips,” says Laurie Yankowski, regional marketing director for Peterson Companies.
When it came time to design the space, the development firm decided to look to the innovative design ideas of the architectural technology students at nearby Montgomery College. The winning design met all the necessary technological standards—including Wi-Fi and charging stations—while seamlessly incorporating the colorful, artistic feel of the area.
“We wanted to add an engaging amenity to [downtown Silver Spring] that would encourage patrons to enjoy the open-air environment with something a little more than simply placing tables and chairs in a common area,” Yankowski says. “We’re already seeing a steady stream of people utilize the OUTBOX for meetings, with their lunch, coffee, laptops and cellphones. The space has become a fresh-air option to work, create and be inspired.”
The space has become a fresh-air option to work, create and be inspired.
For Washington, D.C.-area residents, the outdoor office movement doesn’t stop there. Just a few miles down the road, the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District sets up free Wi-Fi, tables and chairs each Friday. Meetings of up to 24 people can be held in the outdoor space, simply by setting up an online reservation.
Across the Atlantic, a Dutch startup is taking the trend a step further by offering pop-up offices throughout the city of Amsterdam. Popices is taking over unused spaces, such as parks, rooftops, and even boats, and setting up Wi-Fi-enabled offices that will be available through September. Companies can choose a space to rent out for a day or two, while individuals looking to shake up their daily workspace can secure a spot through a ticketing system.
Looking ahead, Long Beach, Calif., was recently awarded $300,000 through the Knight Cities Challenge for their project, The Outdoor Office. Though the project still has a long way to go, the plan would turn a portion of Harvey Milk Park into a permanent outdoor office space equipped with free Wi-Fi, charging stations, shady areas and flexible seating arrangements.
“I can already imagine the activation and life The Outdoor Office will bring to Harvey Milk Park,” said Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez in the city’s press release. “I envision small groups gathering together and capturing ideas on an outdoor chalkboard, teens and adults alike charging devices in the shade, and workers tucked into comfy chairs responding to emails on their tablets.”
Though each outdoor office space offers its own unique design, all of the concepts seek to provide a free community workspace for the ever-growing freelance base, as well as professionals typically confined to a traditional indoor office.
Sure beats squeezing into a loud coffee shop on a nice summer day.