The Outdoor Office: Integrating the Benefits of Nature into Our Workplaces

The environmental sustainability community has approached a true “green” building standard through their LEED Certification program, nudging the construction industry in the direction of sustainable design. Although this is clearly a step in the right direction, what about human standards? Employers are well aware that striving to help manage, promote, and improve employees’ health and wellness carries a wide array of benefits, such as reduced health care costs and absenteeism, as well as greater efficiency and an overall increase in employee happiness.

There are currently a few certifications and programs that are geared towards worker well-being, including the WELL  and Fitwell certifications, which both set standards for optimizing buildings to support worker health. While these are geared towards desk jobs, companies like Levis have spent years developing global workplace standards, not just for their workforce, but also to help define suitable working conditions throughout their entire operations and supply chain. In the end, it becomes evident that happy, healthy workers want to be there, work there, and stay there.

Over the last several hundred years, we’ve shifted from an agrarian to an industrialized society, but now we might be shifting back in the other direction. Cubicle farms are becoming a thing of the past while standing desks, walking meetings, fitness programs, and free healthy snacks are increasingly becoming the norm. This is especially common with innovative, early adopter businesses where millennial employees demand health and wellness perks, as well as with forward-thinking CEOs who understand the benefits as opposed to holding employees captive in their “farms”.

In the past, people working outside on an actual farm were only concerned about putting food on the table while they unknowingly reaped the benefits of being in nature – minus the hard labor and beating sun. It is almost comical that it has taken so much time and research for us to discover that flexible work environments and being outside have a multitude of health benefits, like reduced stress, improved memory, better concentration, and even stronger immunity. So how do you incorporate this into your workspace? You can take the approach of bringing the outdoors inside your office; studies show that plants and natural elements increase productivity and well-being. Another option is to take employees physically outside, not forgetting that access to green spaces might be the most important wellness factor of all.

Given the multitude of benefits that stem from getting outside, we encourage our employees to take walks or even surf breaks throughout the day, returning to the office refueled. That’s why we found it important that when we host our first ever conference, we connect people to the outdoors and host it in Zion National Park. Our conference, InsightOutside, is a three-day retreat for Senior Executives looking to better integrate purpose into their organization. We will have innovative speakers, peer workshops, and engaging fireside chats – all while soaking in the benefits of a beautiful, outside setting. Request your ticket here while they’re still available.

While we are making an attempt to change the paradigm on what a conference can look and feel like, hopefully, some of the benefits of the great outdoors will give folks a new perspective on employee well-being while they are collaborating to develop solutions to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.