By Clare BruceTuesday 5 Apr 2016Hope Breakfast with Sam & Duncan
Listen: Rich Gilmore of Work With Nature Week chats about the benefits of spending time working outside.
If you’re feeling a bit drowsy as you read this, consider stepping outside instead of having that next cuppa. Because just 20 minutes in the great outdoors has the same effect on your mental alertness, as a coffee.
And if you struggle to stay focussed in meetings, try holding your meeting while walking outdoors. Because it’ll be more productive.
These are some of the fascinating, scientificially-backed facts being highlighted during ‘Work With Nature Week’. The week, organised by an environmental organisation called The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Australia, is designed to get people ‘green-desking’ or spending time out in the fresh air during their working day.
Too Much Indoor Time Is Making Us Sluggish
Event organiser Rich Gilmore, the country director of TNC, told Hope 103.2’s Dan and Laura that the week aims to help improve the wellbeing of Australians, particularly those who work inside, through the power of simple time in nature.
The reason? Because the more time we spend indoors, the worse our wellbeing and productivity.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
“We spend a lot of time indoors – in our cars, in our offices, at home, on trains, and less and less time outdoors,” he said. “And we’re losing that connection with nature that makes us feel happy and productive at work. We’re asking Australians to just spend one hour during the week of April 18 to 24, doing their work outside.”
The Benefits of Time In Nature
Most Australians would be familiar with the feeling of wellbeing that comes after a hike, a beach walk, a swim in the surf, or simply a picnic in a park. Now, research is proving what our feelings have told us: time in nature is good for you.
And employers will be glad to know that it also improves their workers’ performance.
“Science is starting to backup now the sort of things that we intuitively know,” Rich said. “It makes you feel happier being outside. But it also makes you more productive. In terms of your energy levels, just being outside for 20 minutes has about the same effect on your stimulation as a cup of coffee.
“You just feel better and work better when you’ve spent that time outside reconnecting with nature.”
Benefits of spending time outside include:
- Sharper, clearer thinking
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced heart rate
- Better physical and mental health
- Improved short-term memory
- More mental energy
- Increased creativity
Try Green-Desking and Walking Meetings
While bushwalks and surf swims aren’t feasible for most office workers even during an extended lunch break, there are simpler ways to spend time outdoors during the working day.
Try these ideas for working in nature:
- Spend time “Green-desking” – working from a laptop / tablet at a park or beach
- Hold meetings outdoors in the courtyard instead of the boardroom
- Take a notepad and pen to a nature reserve to brainstorm for your next project
- Have an outdoor, “walking meeting” – talking while walking
- Catch a train and walk to work instead of driving
- Spend your lunch break outside instead of in the lunchroom
Rich Gilmore said he’s personally experienced the increased productivity that comes from “walking meetings” with his staff.
“Walking meetings are much more productive than just sitting down across a table from somebody,” he said. “You go for a walk through the park, be it 20 minutes or an hour, and you have good conversation, lots of creativity.
“Our staff – after some initial scepticism – are really getting on board with walking meetings.”
Even Indoor Plants Are Helpful
Hope 103.2 breakfast host Dan took the opportunity to ask Rich if spending time with his cactus at his desk would help. Rich was diplomatic but encouraging in his answer.
“You may be surprised, Dan, to find that it mightn’t be as productive as being outside, but it will help. Any sort of contact with greenery, with nature, even a small number of plants in the office, makes a difference.
“But you just can’t beat being outside.”
Dan’s question, while tongue-in-cheek, highlighted the power of indoor plants, which have been shown in studies to improve workers productivity and mental wellbeing.
How To Get Involved
To join in Work With Nature week, register at workwithnature.org.au and spend an hour working outdoors in the week of April 18 to 24.
Participants are encouraged to take selfies while they work in nature, and share it on social media with the hashtag #greendesk.
Registration is free.