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How L.L. Bean Encouraged People to Take Their Work Outside

The "Be an Outsider at Work" campaign, in partnership with co-working space Industrious, created inviting pop-up work stations for people to integrate the outdoors into their workday.

By Beth Kormanik August 16, 2018, 7:16 AM EDT

Entire work teams could book a shaded, open-air conference room for meetings. "What's interesting is the idea of being outside. It's super helpful for creativity, it helps memory, and you're more expansive in your thinking," said workplace strategy expert Lee Stringer, who consulted on the project.

Photo: Amy Sussman/AP Images for L.L.Bean

L.L. Bean Be an Outsider at Work
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For most office dwellers, their only connection to the outdoors during a workday is a view from a window or, at best, a lunch break spent in a park.

That's no way to live, according to the retailer L.L. Bean. This summer, along with the coworking space Industrious, L.L. Bean created a functioning outdoor workplace—complete with conference rooms, electrical outlets, and ergonomic furniture—that debuted in New York in June and then traveled to Boston, Philadelphia, and Madison, Wisconsin.

“L.L. Bean has always been about the outdoors, and we are on a mission to get more people outside to enjoy it,” said Kathryn Pratt, L.L. Bean director of brand engagement.

Even when they're at work.

The debut at New York's Madison Square Park featured modern office furniture set up in conference rooms, single desk areas, residential-style soft seating, and picnic benches, as well as an area for teambuilding activities. For a more quirky option, there was a pod of cycling desks.

“We wanted to inspire this movement of embracing the outdoors.”

Anyone could book workspaces in advance online—the group spaces filled quickly—but walk-ups could check in with event staff to see if there was room for them.

“We wanted to encourage different ways of working,” Pratt said. “There are different types of meetings that you can be taking out here. Sometimes you are going to want power and some shade; other times, if it's a creative blue-sky thinking session, you might want to be in lower, more comfortable seating.”

Jack Morton Worldwide designed and produced the activation, which included fabricating the custom workspace pods in its Princeton, New Jersey, facility.

“Things like having an interview outside—we've been calling them 'outerviews'—it just changes the whole dynamic, which is really nice. We are such an outdoors-focused brand, and we truly believe in the power of the outdoors. We didn't come here today to sell anyone any particular product, we just wanted to inspire this movement of embracing the outdoors.”

Another partner on the campaign was workplace strategy expert Lee Stringer, who was brought on to help with research and lend her credibility to the notion that working outside does have positive benefits for both workers and their employers. In a national research study commissioned for the campaign, people who work traditional 9-to-5 jobs were asked whether they wanted to work outdoors (an overwhelming yes) and what was inhibiting them. The activation was designed to meet those needs, offering a place to plug laptops in or charge phones, as well as different seating areas.

“Another thing we found, people who had a workplace setting to work outdoors—nothing fancy but a place where they could plug and play—were more likely to perceive the workplace outside as productive because they could see it and experience it,” Stringer said. “Architecture or space can shape our perceptions or nudge us to do what really makes sense.”

At many consumer activations, the host brand's own employees don't get to experience the activities themselves. But in this case, they did. The set had a test run at L.L. Bean's headquarters in Freeport, Maine, where employees used their internal conference room booking program to reserve space.

Also in support of the campaign, on the day of the New York activation's debut, Jack Morton employees at offices in New York, Dubai, Hong Kong, Australia, and elsewhere shared images of themselves working outdoors.

“We got to see everything that would come to life here in New York, and it was a good opportunity for L.L. Bean employees to get involved as well and really utilize and see how functional the space was,” said Alicia Durfee, vice president and senior account director at Jack Morton. “It wasn't really about putting on a show for people in New York; it was space that you really could use and use well.”

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