The benefits of working outdoors
Many of us head to our local café, library, or co-working spaces when we need a change in scenery while we work. Now, especially with so many of us working from home, there’s one more underutilized workspace waiting just outside our doors: the great outdoors.
Many studies have noted the benefits of being, or working, outdoors.
A large 2018 review looked at 143 studies in which participants were exposed to greenspaces to measure health outcomes. The researchers found greenspace exposure to be associated with a wide-ranging array of health benefits, including statistically significant associations with reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, salivary cortisol, incidence of type 2 diabetes and stroke, and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, as well as increased incidence of self-reported good health.
A 2021 Swedish study found that outdoor office work appears to support a sense of well-being, recovery, autonomy, enhanced cognition, and better communication, which the study’s authors theorize could play a role in productivity at work.
Think you might be ready to move your office into a more natural environment?
You’ll need to be thoughtful about setting up your workstation outdoors. Distractions, noise, or accidents, such as inadvertently sitting in the sun too long, could turn a working paradise into a nightmare.
Think about how you’ll shade yourself from sun, what furnishings you’ll need, how you’ll keep your set-up ergonomically sound, how you’ll protect yourself from noise, and how you can get the ideal light for your workspace.
Here are some ideas from Nina Doiron, president and lead designer of Toronto area-based iSO Design on how to create your ideal workspace outside.
Make sure your Wi-Fi is up to par and that you have electrical outlets nearby—or not, if you prefer to detach yourself from your computer as part of your outdoor working experience.
If necessary, invest in a propane heater, lamp, or gas-powered outdoor fireplace—they often create an ambience as well. A small space heater at your feet will heat your entire body.
A blanket might be all you need for warmth. Doiron suggests keeping a blanket tucked inside a nearby wicker basket for when you need it. Of course, a pair of woolly socks will also keep you cozy.
The seat you’re using will be key, especially when you’re putting in a full day’s work, says Doiron. You could roll your office chair outside for a comfortable seat. But, if you choose to use a regular chair, you’ll want to think about purchasing a lumbar or support cushion.
Build or invest in a patio cover. A canvas curtain can provide shelter, help contain heat, or give you privacy. It’s perfect for entertaining after the workday is over as well, says Doiron. Complete the space with an indoor/outdoor carpet from the many options available; it’ll give the area style and feel good on your feet.
Create ambience with lights and music. Choose portable speakers or use headphones. And to keep yourself energized, do some intermittent stretching or exercises on the spot, or throw a ball around with your pet.
You can use a bin or basket with plenty of compartments, to avoid carrying your office outside in your arms every day. Doiron suggests placing various office supplies such as notebooks, pens, scissors, and a stapler in the basket or bin so you can conveniently and efficiently keep all your office needs nearby, then carry them back in with you at the end of your workday.
|peppermint||associated with improving mood and cognitive tasks, along with a decline in mental fatigue|
|lavender||has been found to relieve stress and depression and contains two inflammation-fighting compounds|
|lemon balm||rich source of antioxidants; might also reduce growth of some viruses and bacteria|
|rosemary||commonly used for memory, indigestion, fatigue, and hair loss|
|sage||a recent study showed promising evidence for cognitive-enhancing and protective effects of sage (Salvia) plants|
Companies are starting to recognize the benefits of working outside. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook have all experimented with setting up workstations outside for their employees, including botanical gardens, tree houses, and green roofs.