Your Next Office Could Be in a Forest

A desk isn’t an anchor anymore. As COVID-19 changes the way people share space, and as employers innovate work environments to optimize their teams’ wellbeing, many professionals are now choosing where they spend their time in the office

And having the ability to pick the optimal spot for productivity and creativity can help today’s employees hit their stride once they return to working in person.

When workers have several options for where they can concentrate and contribute, they thrive in their jobs. Coworking space company Bond Collective recommends that employers “give team members the freedom to work anywhere in the office that suits them. That may mean that one day they spread out in the lounge, the next day they isolate themselves at a desk, and the next day they sit on the floor in a corner.”

This is sage advice, given recent studies on worker experience. For instance, a Gensler Research Institute report states that “noise, privacy, and the ability to focus remain key determinants of workplace effectiveness. A choice-based strategy that provides a variety of spaces and different types of enclosure can reconcile these needs.” Thus, offices that accommodate multiple workstyles and preferences are vital to cultivating a fully present and gainful workforce.

And despite Work from Home’s recent popularity, many employers are investing in hybrid setups. “Fortunately for the office sector, the economy is roaring back at its strongest rate in decades,” according to PWC’s Emerging Trends report, “Historically, office demand has closely correlated with growth in ‘desk jobs’—the knowledge-based occupations whose work is most likely to take place in an office setting.” In this climate, the term ‘desk jobs’ can no longer be taken literally as modern employees are discovering all the alternative spaces an office has to offer.

In Seattle, Apple’s Headquarters gives its team access to an adjoining nature refuge. And in Silicon Valley, Facebook provides staff with “a winding walk through nine acres of greenery” on its office building’s roof, writes WIRED reporter Cade Metz. The incorporation of nature into the built environment is called “biophilic” design, and it’s becoming a mainstay of 2022 workplaces. Office furniture company Haiken says that “this is because plants, natural materials, and natural light have a positive effect on the physical and mental health of employees and their work performance.”

Internal staircases are another addition to the office that professionals can use to enhance their workday. Brokerage firm Vicus Partners writes that “just as offices have been incorporating greenery and natural airflow (open floor plans) into their office layouts, they are also doubling down on their ‘living space’ feel with elements like internal staircases.” For example, an architectural firm, called Henning Larsen, recently designed a nonprofit headquarters in Copenhagen that includes a large wooden staircase surrounded by an atrium. According to an article written by Dezeen journalist Jon Astbury, the firm’s associate design director Troels Dam Madsen said that “the stairs are a play on the classic stairwell of residential buildings, which is typically the place you meet your neighbor.” Homey amenities like these could be surprisingly perfect places for employees to burn the midnight oil, have impromptu chats with colleagues or brainstorm.