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Why Microsoft, Google, and Facebook Built Outdoor Workspaces for Employees

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Within Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington HQ you can find tree houses complete with fireplaces, wooden canopies, rocking chairs, and outdoor Wi-Fi networks where employees can decide to sit down, do their work and have their meetings. The treehouses, which were unveiled to the public in 2017, were part of the company’s “outdoor districts,” spaces around the campus where employees can spend more time with nature. The idea sprung from a survey that the company conducted that asked what employees cared about the most. Many said that they wanted more opportunities to work outside.

Microsoft is not the only company providing alternative working spaces for its employees. In Silicon Valley, where many tech giants lie, offices are similarly more relaxed. People do not have to be tied to their cubicles throughout the day. Google’s Mountain View HQ has well-manicured parks complete with an art installation, outdoor workspaces, and oddities such as a T. Rex skeleton named Stan. Facebook’s expanded Menlo Park base has plenty of green spaces, too.

If these companies are the standard, then maybe all other workplaces should invest in outdoor spaces, too, where employees can fulfill their professional roles under the sun and while breathing fresh air.

Your Outdoor Workplace

Outdoor workstations do not have to be as grand as Microsoft’s treehouses, but it helps to create green spaces that will make spending time under the sun more pleasant. No, it would not be enough to place tables and chairs in the parking area. It would be worth it to invest in landscaping services to beautify an otherwise barren and unused portion of the office property.

Hiring professionals would leave you with nothing else to do but to sit back and let them do all the tasks. They will take care of sourcing and installing the high-quality sod supply needed to cover the brown earth, plant and care for flowers and bushes, and draft a design to create outdoor workstations where your employees would want to spend their day.

The outdoor workstations, like Microsoft’s treehouses, should also be equipped with Wi-Fi networks and power outlets to enable people to actually do their work.

Nature: the Remedy for Stress

Adults are stressed. Previous surveys found that nearly one in three adults experience extreme levels of stress regularly which can lead to negative physical and mental health consequences. And, work, unsurprisingly, is a major contributor to the levels of stress that many people around the world live with.

It, however, does not have to be that way. Stress can be alleviated if people spend more of their time outdoors. Previous studies have found that spending time in nature can alleviate stress and improve one’s overall mental well-being.

man sitting on a bench

A Healthy Way to Recharge

Work can zap the energy out of employees, but reaching for a fresh cup of coffee may not be the answer.

In 2010, researchers published a series of studies that looked at the impact of being in nature on a person’s physical and mental state. They discovered that participants who spent 20 minutes outdoors where there is a natural environment noticeably boosted their vitality and energy levels.

These studies prove that reaching for a fresh cup of coffee in the middle of the day to be awoken from sluggishness is not the only way for employees to recharge. When the office has green spaces where people can relax for a few minutes, they are more likely to have the drive to do their best throughout the day.

Better Attention and Memory

Being outdoors also improves brain function in various ways. Researchers from the University of Michigan reported in a paper published in 2008 that spending time outdoors, even when it is cold, is enough to improve short-term memory and attention span. In their study, they found that the memory and attention of those who spend an hour in nature improved by 20%. Moreover, they do not have to enjoy the experience. Similar effects were observed among those who were asked to walk outside in the dead of winter.

The researchers explained that being outdoors has a meditative effect. The practice of meditation is known to rewire the brain, making the person more present in that moment and stave off anxiety and depression.

Creating outdoor workstations communicate to the employees that their employers care. Being indoors all day does not actually ensure productivity. It only raises the risk of illnesses among workers because they sit in front of computer screens for eight hours a day and do not get enough sunlight. Having green spaces at the office benefits employees and the company.

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