Microsoft has built three tree houses for its employees at its Redmond Campus, which is its corporate headquarters in Washington, United States. Two of the tree houses are available to the employees, while the third tree house is still taking shape and will be ready later in the year. The Cedar meeting room requires reservations, and another tree house, known as the Crow’s Nest is available to employees on a first come first serve basis.
The tree houses are a part of a campus redesign that makes it easier for employees to work outdoors. Microsoft took up the challenge as a survey of employees revealed that given the opportunity or choice, more would choose to work outdoors. The tree houses re-imagine what going to an office, or attending a meeting looks like, and keeps people closer to nature even when they are busy working. Apart from the tree houses, there are weatherproof benches with plug points,
Apart from the tree houses, there are weatherproof benches with plug points, rust-proof rocking chairs, a gas-powered outdoor fireplace and a cafeteria that extends from indoors to outdoors. All these outdoor locations are supported by a broad Wi-Fi network to ensure that the employees are always connected.
Being close to the outdoors apparently improves the productivity and the well being of the employees. Eva M Selhub, a Harvard Physician and coauthor of Your Brain on Nature wrote that exposure to the outdoors, “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response, which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response. Trees and plants secrete aromatic chemicals that impact our cognition, mental state, and even our immunity.”
The tree houses were designed by Pete Nelson, who runs the Nelson Treehouse and Supply company that makes custom luxury tree houses, as well as provides knowledge and supplies needed for others to build tree houses. Nelson also appears on the TV show Treehouse Masters, which airs on Animal Planet. The tree houses are built in living trees, with squirrels, birds and the occasional pine cone dropping into the working spaces. The flexible structures are crafted to expand along with the growing trees. The tree houses are expected to last at least twenty years.