I like working outside. Shoot, I just really like being outside. Spring, summer and fall – as long as it’s not cold, I will listen to music, write or sometimes just be in my thoughts sitting in my yard. I love to entertain outside with a barbecue or sitting around the firepit. But in the last couple of years, I have even begun to do office work outside. On days when I worked from home on the dayjob, I often sat on the front porch or back deck with my laptop and cell phone conducting business and doing email.
However, actually working outside at the office was something that never happened. The last office I worked in was next to a small park with benches and lots of trees and shade. I often thought it would be nice to grab my laptop and work out there sometime. But no wifi was available and it wasn’t something that I thought would be looked upon favorably, so I never attempted to do it there.
Thinking back, I can remember times in school when teachers or professors took advantage of a beautiful day and taught class outside. I can remember those times from elementary school through undergrad days. But somehow at the job, most companies wouldn’t think of allowing you to work in space ‘outside’ at the office.
However, I recently learned that incorporating outdoor spaces into workplaces is a new innovation in office space design. Yes, some employers are creating work areas in courtyards, decks or gardens outside the buildings. They equip the spaces with tables, power and wifi for their staff to use instead of their cubicles.
In 2012 the Art Institute of Chicago held an exhibit of prototypes of outdoor office space. An industrial designer, Jonathan Olivares and his team developed designs that incorporated covered spaces outside or interior spaces that capitalize on openings that bring the outdoors inside.
We know that being outside is good for us. Our brains are more attentive and we are able to be more productive. being outside makes our brains happy. With the advent of wifi and cellphones it seems logical for forward-thinking organizations to look at how to incorporate outdoor spaces for employees to work. Outdoor Magazine evens considers employers who offer outdoor work spaces to their employees in their evaluation for companies when determining the 100 Best Places to Work awards.
I know most offices don’t support working outside. But if you really want to do it, you can make it happen. Here are 3 reasons you should consider it and solutions that might work for you.
1. Sitting All Day is Really Bad for You – Go Have a Walking Meeting
Sitting for excessive periods has been called the new smoking. Most American office workers sit at least 10 hours per day (some studies show up to 15 hours!) when the optimal number is 3. The next time you have a one-on-one meeting with a colleague, if the subject matter is not protected or confidential, consider a walking meeting outside. This gets your body moving with the added benefit of fresh air to help you think more creatively and sunshine, giving you a dose of Vitamin D.
2. Fluorescent Lights are Not Good for You – Go Work in the Sunshine
The little flicker in fluorescent lights, the standard light for offices, causes health problems for many people. I’ve know coworkers who feel eye strain and even develop migranes while working for extended periods under these lights. The remedy is to get outside and get some sunshine. Sunshine gives your body the full spectrum of light, unlike fluorescents which give you only a limited light spectrum.
Do you have an email or a report that will take 20 minutes or more to compose? The grab the laptop and go outside on a bench or under a tree and write the thing. Those few moments outside will boost your energy and give you the Vitamin D boost from the sunshine.
3. Indoor Air is Not as Good as Fresh Air – Go Outside
Poor indoor air quality is a frequent complaint of office workers. Too cold, too warm. I used to have some kind of reaction to the carpet squares a former employer had installed in our office. They were rarely vacuumed and I always coughed more when working in that space than anywhere. The remedy is to get outside in the fresh air. Even if only for a 10 minute walk around the building, a little fresh air reduces stress and lowers blood pressure.
If your office had a space to work outside, would you work there sometimes?