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 lower absenteeism, as well as greater efficiency and an overall increase in employee happiness.

There are currently a few certifications and programs that are geared toward worker well-being, including the WELL and Fitwell certifications, which both set standards for optimizing buildings to support worker health. While these are catered more to desk jobs, companies like Levis have spent years developing global workplace standards, not just for their own 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 slowly losing ground with the rise of standing desks, walking meetings, fitness programs, and free healthy snacks in the office. This is especially common with innovative, early adopter businesses where millennial employees demand health and wellness perks, as well as at companies with forward-thinking CEOs who understand the benefits of not holding their employees captive in “farms”.

In the past, people working outside on an actual farm were 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. And take a look at the location of our first-ever conference: Zion National Park. We prioritized the outdoor environment and attendee possibilities in selecting where to host the event. 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. 

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