Real estate office startup WeWork is promoting outdoor work spaces, believing that the idea may well appeal to companies who’re conscious of the risk of asking their employees to return to work in confined spaces.
The company, which rents out co-working space, says that more than 150 of its 843 total office locations now feature outdoor spaces capable of accommodating group meetings, individual office space and even group meals.
“Our approach to developing our future of work plan focused on maintaining a safe and comfortable experience for our members and creating flexible solutions for the near and long term,” Ebbie Wisecarver, head of global design at WeWork, told Forbes.com. “In a time when fresh air is more valuable than ever, we’re happy to offer our members access to spaces that provide the chance to work productively from both indoors and outdoors.”
WeWork said it has done preparations to ensure its outdoor spaces are as safe as possible, using vinyl tabletop covers, providing sanitization stations and signs to inform people about socially distanced seating. The outdoor spaces come with various seating options, including backless benches, lounge chairs and dining chairs, along with various styles of tables, Forbes said.
“Each outdoor space is designed to uniquely respond to the surrounding neighborhood and context, as well as the design of the lounge space,” Wisecarver told Forbes.com. “In general, we look to strike a balance between function, providing a diversity of work spaces to support different work styles, providing plants and greenery which have been linked to better productivity, as well as shade and weather protection as needed for the climate of the location.”
As we approach winter, the attraction of outdoor spaces may obviously diminish in some parts of the country. Wisecarver says that in cooler climate areas, the company is considering how to adapt these so they can still be used in colder months. One idea is the use of commercial portable heaters, but Wisecarver admits they won’t offer much protection against snow or rain, for example.
Bri Rios, co-founder of Chatter Club, who works at the WeWork Tabor Center in Denver, said her group has started using the outdoor spaces in the afternoon for meetings. But Rios told Forbes.com so far the outdoor spaces haven’t been overcrowded with workers. Also, she says now that Denver has had its first snow, she predicts the outdoor space will be mostly vacant for the remainder of the year.
Regardless, WeWork insists it’s committed to offering outdoor spaces in more of its buildings. Warmer climates, as they start to cool in fall, may be particularly drawn to the open-air spaces.