Summer is round the corner and working in an outdoor summer office had been an option on my mind for some time now. Before I took the plunge, however, I needed to do some base work.
How does one build an outdoor summer office? The first requirement is space, of course. The ergonomics have to be great and internet connectivity achieved as well. In addition, having provisions to protect oneself from the vagaries of nature is required. To be able to work in the lap of nature while enjoying all the perks of office is what one is looking to achieve in this setting.
Many people, who have chosen to work from home, love to move outdoors in summer, if they have the option. There needs to be planned thought in this direction though.
The Basics of an Outdoor Summer Office
We will examine what building an outdoor summer office entails. But what is an outdoor summer office in the first place? Let us see.
What is an outdoor summer office?
Imagine yourself walking down a street on a beautiful summer day enjoying the warmth of the sun on your back. There is a cheer to the outdoors and you may see people soaking in the atmosphere. There will be happy groups lounging around in roadside cafes and then there will be you, on the way to a glass and steel office structure maybe? With its cheerless and sterile but stale air conditioned space. And some trees to gaze at from your windows. Even if you are working from home, you might possibly be inside your room most of the time, confined to your workstation. Even having your own schedule at your home might not be enough to take you outdoors. This is where the need for an outdoor summer office comes into the picture. Not only do you get to enjoy your work more while being in the lap of nature, you also become more creative and productive.
Increasingly larger numbers of offices are recognizing this need. The fact that their workers might be in a happier space if they are in an outdoor office space is a pertinent factor to ponder and act upon. It is true that not all kinds of jobs can be suited to being moved outdoors. But in cases where this is doable, it is indeed worth all the effort. And having an outdoor summer office does take effort.
How does an outdoor summer office help?
Increasing number of studies have shown how deeply connected humans are to nature. The fact that nature nurtures is well established. Closed office spaces with their stifling air conditioning and metal and glass structures often become a bane, in spite of the conveniences built into office spaces. No amount of artificial landscaping can provide the human mind and eye with the soothing effect and solace of nature. This is where an outdoor summer office is increasingly coming into the picture. Every office wants to get the maximum output from its workers, and to provide them with an atmosphere where they will thrive and be happy.
In addition, having an outdoor space opens up options for entertainment ideas too. A rooftop party to celebrate an event becomes all the more inviting. The only thing one needs is to plan ahead so that this can be made possible. This space can then be let out for various purposes, to be used by the office and its workers on certain terms. The possibilities and positives of an outdoor summer office are multiple.
How to build an outdoor summer office?
1. Check the space
A functional outdoor summer office needs to fulfil certain requirements that demand space. Do you have enough space with you in your outdoors? You must have a plan in mind before you launch into execution. I wanted a space that would accommodate not only my work needs but also a space to spend time on my own in between work. Luckily I had the grounds at my disposal in order to do this. This is a basic requirement for starting out on Mission Outdoor Office. Ascertain the area you have at your disposal and start building your plans around it.
There are certain other requirements as well when you begin this project. Namely, the outdoor office has to have connectivity in the sense that people have to have good access. There has to be enough space not only for the office building to come up but also roads and vehicular parking facilities. Keeping this in mind helps you in the long run. Also, there ought to be enough space to possibly think of expansion in the future in terms. Of course this route might end up building a big enough structure to negate the whole idea of a summer outdoor office so you need to have the necessary balance in thoughts to avoid that.
2. Get necessary permissions
Now we get to the permissions and official clearances and paperwork part of the process. This is extremely important and one of the major steps in ensuring smooth functioning. Not all places offer a smooth process in terms of putting up a new structure. There are clearances to be sought and papers got in proper order. How much of an area you are building upon and how that fits in with the laws of the land is a big factor in getting started on your outdoor summer office.
3, Determine how big an office space you would need
What all do you intend to do in your summer outdoor office? This is something that will determine your further course of action. Keeping it to just work is fine but then it is the outdoors you wish to make the most of, right? How about adding a gym space to it? Do you have the requisite space for that in addition to a proper office? A seating and snacking area that makes full use of the outdoors is a good idea too. How big an area you need, will depend upon how you visualize your outdoor office. Here is where proper planning and thought comes in, which we discuss next.
4. Plan the space well
A well planned space can pack in so much more than going about things in a random manner. This is true not only for office spaces but also for any kind of space. Be it the bedroom or the kitchen or an office, everything requires vision and planning. Each of us has an ideal picture in mind as to what we wish to do with a given space. Now comes the planning part where each aspect has to be taken into account in order to give final shape to the project. Inevitably it happens that ideas and requirements keep popping up as the planning goes along.
5. Figure out how much you intend to spend
Your budget will determine a lot of how you see your office space coming up in the outdoors. There are some things about building the perfect outdoor office that cannot be compromised upon. These include working on the exteriors so that they are immune to the forces of nature. Some aspects of building an outdoor summer office are non-negotiable in terms of investing in the best. These are aspects that will provide your structure the solidity and longevity that you aspire to.
Things like building a solid base and using aids to protect the wooden exteriors of your outdoor office is a must. This is because it will face the rains and the sun and the bitter cold in equal measure. Insulating the walls, roof, windows etc is another essential aspect. There cannot be compromise on this. This means that if you are working on a budget you will need to make cuts in your interiors. Keeping to the essentials in case of constraints is a good idea. Working within a budget does not mean you have to compromise on essentials. Safety and comfort are things that help not only in smooth functioning but also in providing the right ambience to the workers. After factoring these into your budget, you can cut down on trims and frills. As and when budget allows, one can always opt for additions and fancy items.
6. What are the additional unforeseen?
The best laid plans can sometimes stumble against the most unforeseen circumstances. You might have everything in place for your new outdoor office space but there might be something holding your plans up that you did not even think of. For example, there may be an unexpected illness in the family, or a sudden funds crunch due to something coming up. Then there is always the weather. Granted one will embark on an outdoor project after checking with weather predictions. But fickleness is the very nature of weather. Though not common, freakish weather can put a spanner in the works. It can happen to the best of people. These are situations that can arise suddenly. And one has to deal with it in the best possible manner. The aim is to see to it that goals do not get compromised.
7. Make a solid base
Building a solid foundation on which to have your outdoor summer office is a prerequisite. What kind of a foundation you choose will depend considerably on the nature of the ground you are building upon. Different kinds of soils provide different levels of support. Make a proper study of the ground conditions before making your move. Expert opinion is to be sought in this matter. We are talking of the base after all. There cannot be any erring on this because it is a long term investment you are making here. In addition to the ground conditions another factor is what size your outdoor office will be and what kinds of purposes it will serve. Investing in a good contractor to work on your foundation is a must. You can take off from here as you wish.
8. Make use of scraps and bits
Over time we tend to accumulate a lot of things in bits and pieces. That is human nature. A piece of wood, a seemingly useless piece of iron grill, odd ends and bits. Often we do not ding any use for them in the household and they keep accumulating or getting relegated to an unwanted shed. Surprisingly these come in very useful when building something new. Ideas can pop up from any place. A new space that is set to serve as an outdoor office in summer will have altogether different kinds of requirements. You will not only make savings in terms of unnecessary purchases but also put scraps to very good use. Not only as reinforcements or add-ons, but sometimes these can also add an altogether different dimension to your interior decorations. All you need is an eye for such additions and alterations. Of course imagination and the ability to use them alternatively is something that is innate to a person and cannot be tutored. But one can always get inspired.
9. Who will do the actual labour?
Have you given a thought to who will do the actual work for you? Some of you are naturally gifted with your hands and are very resourceful. Others might not be so good and may require professional help in setting things up. How you foresee your outdoor summer office is really your personal vision. Goes without saying you are in the best position to give it shape. Most outdoor office units in the form of wooden cabins come in easy to install packages. This means that you can easily handle this job with the help of another person. This is especially true when it comes to lifting heavy stuff. In case you figure you are good enough to do this on your own, make sure you have all the necessary tools of the trade at hand. It always helps to have someone hand the right tools to you at the right time, in addition to providing company and valuable tips and suggestions on how to go about the job. And of course the presence of someone to chatter along as your office takes shape!
However, if letting out the job on contract, it is wise to also get a prior estimate of costs since that would decide your future course of action. Assembling an outdoor office that is prefabricated is very easy for professionals and should not take more than a day.
10. Pampering the wood and insulating the office
Most people who opt for an outdoor summer office prefer log cabins in the form of prefabricated units. This is because they suit the outdoor best. The best part of summer will be in your office space when you choose wooden outdoor office spaces. In addition, they are the most easily available and assembly is easier too. However, having an office outdoors that is made of wood requires a lot of care and attention. The whole unit will be exposed to the forces of nature. Taking care of the exteriors thus acquires greater significance in light of the facts. Invest in a good quality wood preservative to coat the exterior thoroughly. The undersides of your outdoor office require special attention. This is because once the office is set up; it is impractical to expect that it will be upended in order to redo the undersides. All these measures will not only save your outdoor summer office from damage from the sun and rain but also against termites and other wood boring insects.
Now comes a very important part of the outdoor office. This concerns insulating your office space adequately. You need to insulate the walls, floor, roof and windows. What you use to insulate your office space will of course depend upon the area to be covered, the purpose of the space, how the weather varies over the year and what budget you are working on. Like we see, it all kind of comes down ultimately to the weather and the budget.
11. Give a thought to the interiors
You are now all but set and on your way to owning your very own outdoor office in the summers. The structure is up and looks cheerful and inviting. It is time to look inwards now, that is, into the office itself. How would you like the seating arrangements to be? What kinds of window shades are you looking at? Would you go for Slats or fabric curtains? Would not a porch be wonderful for the workers? Some place to sit around and enjoy their lunch break? Or say, someone wants a smoke. Outdoor offices offer some of the best options for these. Building a niche area for smokers while exposed to nature is a great option. Nice comfortable seating with generous sprinkling of ash trays and stub dispensers would be good too. The idea is not to encourage smoking of course. But there needs to be acceptance that there might be smokers among the workers and it is best to provide options for them to do it in a manner that does not disturb others.
12. Outdoor activities to benefit all
If your outdoor summer office is set such that there is garden around and lots of trees, maintaining the grounds can be quite a task. Not only does it require time but also manpower. In case you are one of those who loves pottering around in the garden and has a green thumb, and you have people working for you in addition, why not explore the possibility of using these hands to help in small ways. Keeping the surroundings litter free is one such example. Suggesting adopting a plant or a tree or a row of flowering shrubs is a good idea as well. Not only will it bring the employees closer to nature and make them responsible for the well being of their adopted patch of green, your outdoors will look healthier too.
14. Plan the roof
The rooftop, as mentioned earlier, is replete with possibilities in a summer outdoor office. You need to plan this at the initial stages in order to make the best use of it. You can design it so that there are facilities for entertainment as and when needed. Does not a barbecue party sound amazing after work hours? A cosy corner on the rooftop to sit around after hours while enjoying the blissful summer evenings can be a wonderful way to unwind. And having the provision right at the place of work, after hours, is doubly rewarding. The very thought of saving time and energy on commute while getting the best facilities will be a big bonus for the workers. It is a pity to let so much space go waste. Get down to planning it out with your architect and see the buzz it generates. A swimming pool, music deck, dance floor, bar unit, the possibilities are endless. The whole idea is to make the most of summer. And this is certainly a great way to do so.
What are the drawbacks of outdoor office spaces?
While the above-mentioned are all the various steps one needs to take while building an outdoor summer office unit, what are some of the drawbacks of the same? We need to look at that aspect too in order to ensure a complete experience, don’t we? What then are some of the cons of outdoor office spaces, and how can one find ways around these? Let us have a look:
1. Lot of investment. Setting up an outdoor summer office space is a wonderful idea. Extrapolating the benefits include a bunch of happy folks working in the lap of nature and being more productive. All of this is what companies look for in smooth functioning and overall gains. However there is a huge cost to be paid in order to set up a working outdoor office space. It requires special care and a lavish budget in order to get going.
Most employers baulk at the thought of so much investment only to provide nature contact to their workers. They would much rather invest in other forms of entertainment for them in order to keep them engaged. True that contented employees contribute to the growth of their company in a wonderful way. But setting up a whole new outdoor office is considered a waste of resources by many companies. Also, not only setting up the structure but the interiors too need lot of thought and proper accessories which are sturdier and more resilient than what is normally used in indoor offices. That again calls for a new set of investments.
2. Constant upkeep. Another factor that goes against outdoor summer offices is the constant upkeep that they demand. These are generally in the form of wooden log cabins made to order to fit in customer requirements. They are designed to enable workers enjoy every bit of summer in the warm outdoors. However, proper upkeep of such offices is a continuous process. It is not possible to keep them in good order with a one-time investment.
By their very nature, they are exposed to vagaries of nature and have to withstand it all. Not only yearly maintenance, these offices require regular monthly checks to keep things in good working condition. It is wise to employ an agency or enter into a maintenance contract with a trusted company to help with upkeep and maintenance of your outdoor office. This will ensure problems are detected at the very onset and there are professionals dealing with every kind of situation that might arise.
3. Safety risks. Employee safety as well as equipment safety is a matter of concern in outdoor summer office spaces. Consider a scenario where it rains and the exposed parts of the office structure have wet and slippery floors. Constant maintenance is a must in such offices. If an employee slips by any chance, you are in trouble, mind you. Similarly for equipments and power supply units in such a setup. Chances of short circuit or resultant sparks need to be taken care of at the planning stage itself. Prevention of bug bites also needs to be addressed in outdoor office setups. Getting safety clearances when setting up your summer office is a must before you get functional. You will need to make your things weather proof in order to be able to weather the moods of nature.
4. Making it all weather. Considering the amount of investment and labour that goes into building a summer outdoor office space, and the constant upkeep it requires through the year, many offices consider making it all weather. This basically means they want to use it all the year round. Now, making it summer office is what you possibly intended to start out with and planned accordingly. However if it is to serve as an outdoor unit in the winter and rainy seasons, it would need additional planning and different kinds of infrastructure. For all purposes, it could very well be made worth it but the investments only go up.
A fireplace with a warm and merry fire going seems a wonderful idea but the plan has to be such as to accommodate this. The snowfall and rainfall making things wet and muddy also need to be addressed. But let all of this talk not put you off. It can be repurposed according to weather changes.
Call in your architect at the very onset and then go ahead accordingly.
5. Keeping bugs away. A very real problem with outdoor offices is the profusion of bugs that tend to crop up. Especially in summers when all kinds of creepy crawlies are out to have fun too. Encounters with them and possibility of exposure to bites and stings are certainly not a good idea for your employees and workers though. At times these can become serious conditions too. This is an issue that needs serious attention in outdoor offices.
When you set out to build the outdoor summer unit, this point must necessarily be kept in mind. The architect has to look at ways to eliminate bugs from the interiors. Screens that keep out bugs but do not block the sun and light have to be incorporated into the design. Other means of blocking entry have to be devised along the way so as to keep things going well. In addition, you must equip the office with bug sprays and antidotes to common stings and bites to handle any emergency.
How easy is it to maintain an outdoor office? It is not very easy nor is it difficult to do so. The main point is to keep in mind what the pitfalls might be. Once you are aware of these, it is easier to be equipped for the odds. For example, internet connectivity and phone connections are a must to any kind of business these days. Keeping electronic equipments and wires and cables in good shape can be quite a challenge. Outdoors need a lot of attention to keep noise and pollution at bay. Open spaces are prone to attract more dust from the outdoors too.
Which kinds of jobs are easy to do outdoors? Most jobs which can be done as work from home options are easy to handle as outdoor summer jobs. However given that noise and pollution is a big part of nature, some jobs are easier than others in the outdoors. Jobs that require brainstorming or essentially require less intense focus are better in this setting. Jobs that need more people to get together and have a discussion or some such scenario are better suited too. The only thing is to set up an office that can handle all problems that can crop up.
The aim of any worker or office is to achieve highest levels of productivity. When this is achieved in sync with nature, it leads to marked improvement in creative thought and output. You can now go ahead and plan your own office space in the lap of nature.