Now that summer is here, we look at ways that you can bring that outside feeling into your office design

Summer is finally here! The sun is shining, the skies are blue and the jumpers are left at home – but does it ever seem to you like the best weather always seems to happen when you are working? How many hot summer days have you spent shivering in an air-conditioned office, staring at the same tech and grey walls that you were looking at back in February? Stifled by the heat, do you count yourself as one of the 90% of office workers[1] who feel unproductive when the office is too hot?  For many workers, summer in the office offers little opportunity to reap the benefits of warmer weather other than a quick lunchtime trip to Pret or with any luck, an after-work drink before the heavens open once again. 

Being outside is good for us – fresh air is energising, feeding oxygen to our brains, which makes us more productive and less prone to illness[2].In addition, studies show that exposure to natural elements like plants, wood or beautiful scenery can also relieve stress, making us feel happier and boosting our productivity. Conversely, we know that an overload of tech is scrambling our brains. Unrelenting screen time, on either smartphones or a computer is blamed for insomnia, anxiety and increasing stress levels – not to mention problems with vision and neck strain[4]. With this in mind, surely giving workers exposure to the outside during the working day is a no brainer? The problem is that even with the best will in the world, many workers still struggle to find time to take a break and get the exposure to the great outdoors that our bodies crave. 

Bringing the outdoors in

In recent years, this has led to an increase in biophilic office design, where workspaces are designed around natural elements that will ultimately help workers to feel and perform better. Research shows[6] that we don’t even have to see the real thing to feel the benefits – even just seeing pictures of nature or pseudo-natural elements like fake grass, can have the same gratifying effect. One expert in the field[7] likened exposure to nature to a drop of morphine in the brain, as the neurones in your brain turn off the stress response. This lowers your heart-rate and blood pressure whilst improving immune response.

In a time when maintaining the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff is being heralded as a cornerstone of people management, isn’t it time that we were all offered the opportunity to let a bit of the outside in? With this in mind, we take a look some great outside office spaces and how some businesses have created outdoor elements in their inside space. With office design like this, even when your workload is heavy and meetings aplenty, you can still get a dose of the great outdoors!

Rackspace's picnic area
Funky outdoor terrace at ECL Global

The Sky’s the Limit at ECL Global »

When ECL Global urged their staff to ‘Think Big’ the sky really was the limit. Their entire office design focused on creating an inspiring, non-corporate space where staff could relax and feel at home and this garden area was very much a part of that. With circular bench seating and pristine faux grass, colleagues are invited to use this outside breakout space to relax or meet away from their desks.  The playful graffiti-style mural inspires big thinking, while adding colour and unconventional artistry to promote an innovative approach.

A walk in the park at Rackspace »

If this outside themed space is anything to go by, you’d think that working at Rackspace’s office was a walk in the park! With head-height trees and faux grass floors, workers get a real sense of being outside, sitting below a glass atrium, with views of the skies above – without the risk of rain! Simply emulating outside spaces can have the same impact on wellbeing as actually being outside, so creating a space like this is a great way to design an office which doesn’t have an outdoor area. Here, staff can hold meetings on picnic-style benches in their very own indoor garden and maintain productivity whilst also boosting their wellbeing

Garden meeting room at FICO
Cafeteria at Manhattan Associates

Seamless connections at Manhattan Associates »

It was all about the outside for Manhattan Associates. With an external courtyard, central to their office layout, Manhattan Associates wanted to ensure their outside space was as much a part of their office design as the interior. As well as using similar finishes like wood flooring in both areas, trees and plants were used to furnish both the inside and outside, bringing the spaces together. Large floor to ceiling glass windows helped to connect the two areas. The large benches with angled edges were placed against the glass to create the illusion of one continuous table, creating a seamless connection from outside to in. Biophilic office design was central to the office’s design scheme, making use of natural timber finishes and photographic images of woodland scenes to create the illusion of being in the wilderness.

A room with a view at FICO »

If you’re lucky enough to have a view like this on your doorstep, you don’t need much to enhance it! Simply planning your office design so that everyone can share the view, rather than reserving the best spot for the executive teams, will boost your overall office wellbeing. In this office design at FICO, the interiors were kept simple, using green carpet and full height glass windows to create the appearance of one continuous inside/outside space.

Nuffield Health's courtyard
Lindt's feltham office

Back to their grass-roots for Lindt and Sprungli »

When chocolatiers Lindt and Sprungli said they wanted a people-centric office design, wellbeing was high on the agenda. Creating an outside theme in their interior spaces was one way that we helped them to achieve that, whilst providing a gentle nod to the natural origins of their product. Here, green carpet creates the illusion of grass and chocolate coloured seating pods are made to look like cocoa-beans. Office pot plants are dotted around the space and a large white planter is filled with shrubs to create a partition wall that helps to boost oxygen levels while enhancing the natural look. This is a great example of corporate branding and wellbeing elements harmonising in an office design.

Health matters at Nuffield Health »

For an organisation with health at its core, creating an office space that truly boosted employee wellbeing was a prime focus for their new fit out. Providing staff with an outside area where they could either work or take a break, gave staff an opportunity to get fresh air while providing an equally stimulating work environment. This courtyard in the 1980s office block was transformed with a central wooden pergola with plants meandering over it, with café-style seating as well as wooden benches. Photographic images of a woodland scene are used around the perimeter, which give the illusion of being surrounded by nature.