Why are outdoor spaces and gymnasiums so important in the new era of offices?
In this new world where people can choose between working from home or the office, owners are faced with the challenge of making their properties so attractive that it is best to work from the office.
As a workplace design company, we see two main strategies emerging to make these spaces attractive: providing an outdoor workspace option and offering an indoor / outdoor gym.
Certainly, these strategies may depend on a temperate climate for most of the year and will be more successful in the southern regions of the country. If rain is a bigger obstacle than freezing temperatures, however, consider covered areas to be valuable for both rain and shelter from the sun and can still provide a winning outdoor strategy.
For building owners lucky enough to have space beyond the four walls of their buildings, creating a multimodal outdoor workspace is a smart option to consider. Keep in mind that you will need a weatherproof power supply and site-wide Wi-Fi.
For a project under construction in San Diego, the landlord provides tenants with outdoor seating for social gatherings as well as tables with power, data, and shade for business meetings and other collaborations. For jobs requiring more privacy, the owner provides meeting modules closed on three sides and on the top.
By providing choices, an owner can accommodate the wider range of work styles that have developed during the pandemic. For the project just listed, the owner is also investing in beautiful hard and lush landscaping in the outdoor work areas, again, to encourage people to want to to work there.
Some building owners are also devising ways to monetize these newly activated outdoor spaces. Coffee carts and food trucks are popular. Newly constructed canopies can provide rooftop space for solar panels which can help power outdoor workspace or even some of the building requirements. The covered outdoor space can also accommodate vending machines, which can be used for food, drinks, tech equipment and more.
Add value to leases
In addition, uncovered occupable patios in multi-story buildings, excluding ground-level spaces, may be counted as part of the total leasable area of a property, depending on a change in standards from the Association of building owners and managers several years ago. Access to these highly functional outdoor spaces will add value to leases, help attract and retain tenants, and increase property value.
As part of the project mentioned above, we are helping homeowners renovate the gym and expand into a newly claimed outdoor space. An on-site gym, especially with an outdoor workout space, is appealing to tenants and one more reason to want to work out in the office rather than at home. But the lessons learned during the pandemic are influencing current design trends.
Gyms were at the top of the high-risk category during pandemic shutdowns, primarily because confined spaces where people exercise pose a high risk of aerosol transmission. Herd immunity to COVID-19 is likely to occur soon, but a new awareness of wellness protocols is pushing consumers towards well-ventilated or outdoor gyms now.
In general, people feel and function better when they are not sitting in one place all day. By providing a space that allows for indoor or outdoor work, as well as workouts and breaks in nature, a building owner helps his tenants advocate for the return of employees to the office. as a preferred option over working from home.
An owner doesn’t need an acre of open space to make a difference. If parking demand decreases, consider reclaiming part of the parking lot as outdoor working space, if possible. Just keep in mind the guaranteed parking ratios in rental contracts.
Small landscaped plots can be redesigned to include shaded meeting space. Some building owners may even consider activating their rooftop spaces.
Most employers will appreciate the time to collaborate with their teams and will need some sort of office space. These same employers need their teams to feel safe and excited about coming to the office.
With some reduction in the demand for office space, the winners on the building owner side will be those who make smart investments to create safe and attractive workspaces.
Amy Tobia is a senior project manager at FS Design Group, a workplace planning and design company headquartered in San Diego, California.