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Outdoor Offices? It Could Happen

Working Outside

If you’re like us, you do the bulk of your interweb reading at the office. Which means that you could be reading this from within your cramped cubicle, windowless office, or shared table in an open work space. We’re pretty much betting, though, that you’re indoors right now. But that might not always be the case.

Huffington Post blogger Tucker Reed recently wrote a post about the first wireless neighborhood in New York City, known as DUMBO. Reed’s take: Public Wi-Fi might just make traditional offices obsolete.

“DUMBO is home to nearly 100 digital and technology companies,” Reed points out. “Some are well established like HUGE and Etsy, others are small entrepreneurial start-ups or recent graduates of incubators. All of them employ a non-traditional workforce that abhors the constraints of 9-5 workdays, suits in the office place and being tied to a desk.”

It’s easy to imagine these digital pioneers giving up on the office entirely and taking their business outdoors, on a part-time basis, at least.

The main obstacles to converting the future workforce to outdoor living? Weather, accountability, and security.

A company in New York City, for example, might find themselves able to work outside for about six weeks in the spring and fall. During the winter, the employees would freeze. During the summer, well, let’s just say that New York is a fine and beautiful city, but its tendency to suffer from City Stink in the warmer months might give workers that not-so-fresh feeling.

Organizations in Southern California would fare better on a year-round basis, but all companies could probably adopt some temporary outdoor work space. The idea would be to take the roof decks and patios of today’s coolest companies — currently used as perks or occasional party venues — and make them into meeting rooms, offices, and so on.

Accountability is easier. These days, many employees work from home, or on the road. We’ve adapted to being on Instant Messenger or Skype for our boss’s convenience and reassurance. In addition, as an old manager of ours once pointed out, “It’s pretty easy to tell if someone isn’t doing what they need to do.” For project-based businesses, the end result might be all that matters.

In terms of security, companies will want to educate their workers on how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi by adjusting their settings. Lifehacker suggests turning off sharing, enabling your firewall, and using SSL whenever possible.

Will we work outside someday? For now, it might seem like a pipe dream. But if outdoor offices take off, you could find yourself working in a world where no one is ever “stuck at work” again.


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