L.L.Bean starts tour of modular outdoors co-working space

The century-old outdoor retailer is coaxing indoor workers to take their work outdoors as part of its "Be an Outsider at Work" campaign.

For those of us with 9-to-5 jobs, getting outside is an after work, lunch break, and weekend ambition. But L.L.Bean is challenging us to take our fresh-air intake a step further.

“We believe that getting outside is an integral part of every day,” said Eric Smith, L.L.Bean spokesman. “Sometimes getting outside during the workday means taking a break, but for a lot of people, some of the things they’re doing inside they can take outside.”

The 106-year-old Freeport, Maine-based retailer, in partnership with co-working innovator, Industrious, just announced its “Be an Outsider at Work” initiative—a play on the company’s “Be an Outsider” tagline—in four cities, starting today in Madison Square Park, New York City.

In each city, a modular co-working space, with shaded group and individual work stations, a glass-enclosed conference room, comfy patio furniture, and even cycling desks, will be available to the public for reservation. The next stops are slated for July 10 to 12 in Boston, July 17 to 19 in Philadelphia, and July 24 to 26 in Madison, Wisconsin.

While L.L.Bean’s idea is the first we’ve seen entirely outdoors, SNEWS has recently reported on other leading co-working concepts, such as Yeti Cycles’ proposal for an outdoor lifestyle campus and Wayfinder Co-Op’s member-owned space in Denver.

L.L.Bean’s initiative was inspired by a survey of more than 1,000 indoor workers, of which 87 percent consider themselves someone who enjoys the outdoors, but 75 percent of those workers rarely ever take time to work outside.

Leigh Stringer
Leigh Stringer, center, a workplace strategy expert, partnered with L.L.Bean on the outdoor co-working initiative.Whitney J. Fox / L.L.Bean

To better understand the barriers and benefits of working outdoors, L.L.Bean partnered with workplace strategy expert Leigh Stringer, author of The Healthy Workplace: How to Improve The Well-Being of Your Employees and Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line.

“Biophilia is our preference to be in and around nature, whether it’s things that mimic nature or are truly natural,” Stringer told SNEWS on Wednesday. “The more biodiverse the environment, the more likely we are to respond to that. Of course, outside is the best place to do that. We can hear the birds chirping, we have a view, and can witness the variety of life flourishing around us. Science shows that our brains calm down and the stress reduction is pretty immediate.”

Big companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have already begun testing workspace alternatives, and Stringer predicts that more companies—both in the outdoor industry and in other industries—will catch on.

“The plan is to inspire folks wherever they are to just try it,” Stringer said. “Simply set up a table and some chairs, or maybe a tent, to create an environment that’s workable outside.”