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Should You Let Your Employees Work Outdoors?

 

Direct touch of nature gives a little refreshment to our body, mind, and well-being.” – Talentvis

Alina from In the Loop mentioned that “studying outside can calm mind and change workings of our brains in ways that improve mental health and learning capacity.” Many experts have also suggested that engaging directly with nature brings many benefits for both individual productivity and wellbeing.  L.L.Bean staffs, for example, have sought to encourage their bosses to let them work in an open temporary co-working spaces. “Spending time outside makes us more productive, more creative, and happier. So, we are starting a movement,” said one of the company’s employees.

Similarly, a study on healthy workplace commissioned by Erin Largo-Wight and friends found that there is a relation between nature contact in the workplace and employee stress and health. “Biologically – indoor air pollutants and toxins might cause illness. Psychologically – office environment typified with crowd and noise contribute to chronic stress.” That being said, among methods to promote and eliminate work stress is by modifying workplace through purposeful use of nature contact. The study shows that “a handful of workplace studies suggested that nature contact experienced at work or in office setting might be a health promoting”. Just like the oxygen we need for living, nature at work provide oxygen for the brain. Therefore, a little touch of nature can bring happiness to employees that will, in turn, increases their overall wellbeing.

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Elaine R. Meyer, a journalist and communications specialist, added that an actual working with natural elements such as working outdoors could be a way to address some challenges of modern workplace that require employees to deal with technology and automation everyday. Edmund O. Wilson as interviewed by Meyer said that “nature holds key to our intellectual, cognitive, and even spiritual satisfaction. It also improves blood pressure and immune system functioning, better sleep, reduce stress and depression as well as rumination, better focus, increased meditation and creativity, and significantly improve our overall happiness.”

Nonetheless, does working in nature really enhance our attention, or is it because we are kept away from technology?

Some might think that being outdoors with our gadget on is one of ways to re-energise our attention and performance. However, Meyer said that being outdoors while taking your work with you does not guarantee a refreshment and rejuvenation the same way when we are going on a hike or bike ride. You are just moving from one space to another that might refresh your thoughts ‘only’. Additionally, the creativity in the wild study mentioned that being in nature is partly calming because we disengage our attention from demanding technology. The study shows that “four days of immersion in nature and corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology increase performance on creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent”.

Another study on how to waste a break agreed that a significant increase of attention span and productivity is because individual that engage with nature does not engage with technology. The research found that in order to reap benefits of being in a green space, you have to disengage from work and actually be in space. It means you should completely be with nature and leave work-related matters to actually gain back your attention span and productivity.

Then, why letting employee to work outside in the first place?

Meyer mentioned that the idea of working outdoors is something about primacy of work in modern life that we look to companies and workplace to address some of our biggest social and cultural challenges. It is another workplace wellness efforts like mindfulness meditation. Although taking your work outside might not be an answer to modern workplace environment, “It is an answer whether you let your team to work outside to help them disconnect from distraction, do deep work, and resonate their attention with twist,” concluded Meyer.

In the end, it remains company’s choice to really let their employees engaged with nature or not. Giant company like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook has already created their own workspace such as roof decks that look out into greenery and treehouse meeting space. Thus, joining the bandwagon could be worth to try in your organisation so you can see the result from your employees.

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