​Microsoft just built these Wi-Fi tree houses so staff can connect with nature

Working in Redmond's Pacific Northwest Douglas firs to boost productivity and creativity for Microsoft employees.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Video: Microsoft Redmond employees working in the trees

Microsoft has rigged up three high-tech tree houses for employees to work and meet in up in Redmond's Pacific Northwest Douglas firs.

These aren't normal tree houses with ladders and rickety doors: a long winding wooden ramp leads to a "branch-based meeting space" called the Crow's Nest whose "hand-carved arched double door" glide open when employees swipe their badge, according to Microsoft.

The company built the treehouses after a recent employee survey found many workers would like to work outdoors more if they could. Microsoft is also building other "technology-enabled outdoor districts" around its Redmond campus, taking advantage of the nature available on its 500-hectare property rather than creating green indoor spaces.

The outdoor spaces are designed to offer a space that encourages collaboration while offering the tools to be just as productive as if they were at the office, according to Microsoft.

The rooms and decks are covered by a large outdoor WiFi network, and there are wooden awnings attached to tree trunks that shield workers from rain, snow, and the occasional falling pinecone. Every weatherproof bench has a hatch containing a power supply.

Two of the three treehouses are open, which includes a cedar meeting room, and the Crow's Nest, which sits 12-feet above the ground and features a circular skylight. The Crow's Nest deck has a stairwell leading to a higher perch for "communing with nature".


A Microsoft treehouse.

Image: Microsoft

A third tree house will be a lounge space for workers to "chill inside or out of". On the leisure side of things, Microsoft has extended the internal cafe with a shipping container that houses a barbecue restaurant. And there's an outdoor gas fireplace to attract the after-work crowd.

While Microsoft has equipped the tree houses with Wi-Fi for employees to communicate and work online, it opted not to install an AV system, so presumably this is not a space for PowerPoint presentations.

The elaborate tree-borne meeting rooms were built by Pete Nelson, host of the TV show Treehouse Masters, who designed the treehouses to flex and expand as the trees grow. The buildings should last at least 20 years.

Previous and related coverage

Mobile device computing policy [Tech Pro Research]

Mobile devices offer convenience and flexibility for the modern workforce--but they also bring associated risks and support issues.

How to make your telecommuting program a success [Tech Pro Research]

Telecommuting can benefit the organization and its remote workers, as long as the people, operations, and strategic concerns are addressed proactively. Here are three critical issues to consider.

Read more

Editorial standards