If you’ve ever found yourself totally distracted by a beautiful spring day, there’s a good reason. The power of nature calls to you. But more than that, it is a huge element in how happily—and productively—you work!
In the book Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life, co-author and Yale professor Stephen Kellert posits that connecting with nature is essential to our well-being and our ability to be productive and high-functioning at work. In fact, it’s so important to Google, the company has built it into its workspace design.
The power of nature is unparalleled, especially at work. Studies show that to be being satisfied and productive at work, you need more than a cool office and unlimited vacation. You need changes in air, temperature, or scenery. You need to have meaningful stimulation that interrupts the often-stagnant office environment, and you need the access and the ability to interact with the outside world.
Why? Here are three good reasons.
1. It Reduces Your Stress
Lab animals live in a perpetual state of stress. Not because their workloads are overwhelming or their mortgage payments are too high, of course. They’re stressed because the work environment is so different from their natural habitat. Consider the human-centric noises lab animals put up with: air conditioners, artificial lighting, heaters ramping on and off, key rings jangling, and chairs rolling. You get the idea.
In the real world, that’s not a natural environment for animals. The same is true for you. Believe it or not, your natural habitat is not a room filled with fluorescent lights and computer screens.
2. It Gets You Out of the Deadly Office Chair
It’s no surprise that sitting for extended periods during the day dramatically increases your risk of disease, and even death. Making a commitment to working in nature will disrupt your tendency to sit all day, inattentive to your fundamental, biological need to move around.
3. It Distracts You—in a Good Way
You know that to get work done, you need to be heads down, focused, and kicking butt. You also need a balance. Just like you need a cool down period after a workout, you sometimes need a cool down from your job.
Working outside affords you the opportunity to gaze at the sky, observe ants build a hill, or watch birds in flight. All of which are the “cool down” equivalents of the workplace.
One study showed that walking in a wooded park improved participants’ cognitive function. So, work hard and walk in the woods—you’ll be smarter for it!
How to Make it Happen
But even knowing those benefits, most work environments make it difficult—if not downright impossible—to experience this nature-based integration. So how, exactly do you take your work outside? Here are a few tips to get you started.
Power Up for the Outdoors
You can’t drag your desk, chair, and desktop computer to the local park—so instead, grab your laptop or tablet and get going.
If you’re planning to take your work outside routinely, find a laptop or tablet with a glare-free screen. Some brands even make laptops suited for the outdoors with built-in protections for working in the elements.
If you’re not ready for that investment, get a laptop or tablet sleeve that can protect your tech tools from falls, splashes, and sun.
Need Wi-Fi where you’re working? Check with your local parks for locations where Wi-Fi may be available. For example, here’s a list of Wi-Fi-ready parks in New York City, and here’s one for public parks by state.
Other connection options include using your phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot. I do this all the time, and it’s an awesome feature!
If you’re simply toddling out to the back yard from home, make sure your signal is strong enough that it doesn’t frustrate you. Or, try using a Wi-Fi range extender to get that email downloaded without a problem.
It’s OK to Be Shady
Glaring sun can be the worst nightmare for tech gadgets. Except for e-readers designed specifically for bright sunlight, glare is a problem. So, find yourself a shady perch, under a tree or outside of a coffee shop. It’s stressful squinting at a screen all day, and certainly is nicer to your tech tools than keeping them in the hot sun.
Need to create your own shade? Try rigging up an umbrella or invest in a laptop hood specifically designed to create shade on demand.
You can take your work outside in many ways—but sometimes, you have to get a little creative. Got a patio with a tall table or built-in barbecue that would make a great stand up desk? Go for it.
Not near any nature preserves or greenery? No problem. Take that meeting out to the parking lot and walk around the building or the block. The time outside, fresh air, and conversation will change your day.
It’s easier than ever to take your work outside. For most of us, our digital work means we’re freed from reams of paper files—and that makes working outside easier than ever. This summer, find ways to relieve your stress, deepen your thinking, and do better work, simply by taking it outside.