The Power of Thinking Outside the Office

Remember when you used to tell your parents that you felt sick in hopes they would let you miss school and then they would respond with the dreaded “go get some fresh air”? Well, whether you would like to admit it or not, they were onto something.

Many of us can relate to that feeling of being in a rut at work, whether it’s a creative block or a bit of stir craziness from the fluorescent lighting. There are now studies that show a direct correlation between connecting yourself with nature and higher work productivity. Companies like Google, L.L. Bean, and LinkedIn are now creating outdoor workspaces because of this impact. By simply changing the air, temperature, and scenery, it gives staff fresh inspiration rather than being stuck in a stagnant office. Being surrounded by nature is not only proven to reduce stress, but believe it or not, people actually tend to work harder and can concentrate longer (3). It reduces mental fatigue and improves physical and mental health (1). Taking a nature walk boosts creativity and problem solving skills by 60% (4). So in other words, we thrive in nature.

As humans we are designed to have a connection to nature and other living things, this phenomenon is called biophilia (2). This helps explain why we crave a seat with a window when working or enjoying dinner. It also helps explain that feeling of bliss we get when we step outside to a nice breezy and sunny day. Many of the countless benefits of spending time outdoors can also directly boost work quality and satisfaction. For example, walking among trees is shown to increase short-term memory by 20%, and being in fresh air for 20 minutes provides energy equal to a cup of coffee (4).

By simply scheduling time in your day to get fresh air, you may make a significant impact to your health and well-being. Casual meetings or phone calls can be scheduled outside in fresh air, you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The outdoors provide a more comfortable setting for conversation, where you might find more things will get accomplished. Also, interviews can be conducted outside of the office, you might find that you will be able to see more of the interviewee’s authentic self this way.

Because we don’t all live in a consistently sunny climate and most of us don’t have the resources to create a biophilic workspace, a viable solution is to take a weekend retreat to a place like Woodloch Resort. Woodloch offers various activities that will reconnect you with nature and allow you to immerse yourself in fresh air. Studies show that nature boosts mood, goodwill, and trust, which are all things most offices wouldn’t mind having more of (4).

“Forest Bathing” is another alternative to a biophilic workspace that provides many benefits to the mind and body, and allows oneself to connect senses with nature. The sound of the forest, birds chirping, sunlight peeking through the trees, and fresh air allows for a particular comfort and ease to the mind. According to
a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their time indoors (5). The best part about forest bathing is that it’s free, all you have to do is step outside. Find a park or nature-rich environment where you can take a walk or even just sit and meditate for a few moments.

Another great outdoor option for your office is participating in team building activities. While team building is in and of itself beneficial in creating cohesion between employees, adding in the element of nature can boost morale as stated earlier. The bottom line is that generally people are healthier, happier and more
productive when they are connected to nature. It’s really just a win, win situation. So do not hesitate to take your work outside!