The Leader Magazine

DEC 2018

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government has endorsed the practice and developed 48 "forest therapy" trails throughout the country. So, if being outside is so good for us, what's keeping us from going outdoors more, particularly at work, where we spend an enormous part of our day? I recently partnered with L.L.Bean to send a survey to 1,050 American "indoor" workers to find out. We found that 87 percent of those surveyed really enjoy the outdoors, but most rarely or never take time to work outside. And, 57 percent of those surveyed said they spend less than half an hour outside during the workday. When we asked these indoor workers what kept them from going outdoors more, 65 percent said one of their biggest barriers was their job. Job inhibitors were wide-ranging and included issues with technology (no WiFi or power, plus screen glare), organizational culture (they were afraid their boss would think they were goofing off), or their job required them to be indoors (nurses, retail employees, etc.). We found most respondents understand the benefits of nature to them personally, but not as many made the connection that being in nature could improve their performance at work. Most said the benefits to them working outdoors were improved mood, lowered stress levels, relaxation, increased health and wellness, and increased happiness. Interestingly, if respondents said they already had an outdoor workspace available to them, they were much more likely to make the connection to productivity. Apparently, seeing is believing. L.L.Bean partnered with Industrious (a coworking company) to test these findings, and this past June and July launched the first- ever outdoor coworking space, pop-up style. It started in New York City's Madison Square Park and moved to urban parks in Boston, Philadelphia, and Madison, Wisconsin. The outdoor office included a mix of work settings, including meeting tables, soft seating, even a pedal table – with some spaces covered and some open to the sky. Industrious set up its online room-reservation system to allow the public to book space outdoors and reserve a seat ahead of time. A few thousand people took advantage of working outside at L.L.Bean's outdoor areas, and participants widely reported the experience as refreshing and fun. The majority of participants surveyed stated they are very likely to try to work outside more often. Participants were quoted as saying, "I love this! Working outdoors gives me so much inspiration" and "one hour outside really helped revamp my day." There are many excellent examples of organizations building outdoor work environments for their employees, including Amazon, Microsoft, Casper, Facebook and Etsy. Whether they are taking advantage of green space nearby or real estate on top of their building, companies are rethinking how they recapture workspace, at least during the fair-weather parts of the year. Some of these workplaces are fairly elaborate! It doesn't have to be that complex, though. The cost of piloting an outdoor workspace is very small and the net benefit – to employee happiness and productivity – is significant. It might just mean setting up a table, some chairs and an umbrella. During the L.L.Bean outdoor space launch and road show, many people reached out to see if the outdoor space could be set up in their city. Invariably, our team would smile and answer, "You don't need L.L.Bean to work outdoors. Just open the door and you've got it! It's right there and it's free!" For those of you who would like to dig into the research behind the benefits of being outdoors, there are a number of excellent books on the market. Check out Your Brain on Nature, The Nature Fix, Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature, and The Joy of Forest Bathing. 38 December 2018 the lea D er Leigh Stringer, LEED AP, is a workplace strategist and researcher at EYP, Inc., an architecture, engineering and building technology firm. 1. Klepeis, Neil E., Nelson, William C., et al (2001). The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, 11(3), 232-233. 2. Yin, Jie; Zhu, Shihao; MacNaughton, Piers; Allen, Joseph G.; Spengler, John D. (2018). Physiological and cognitive performance of exposure to biophilic indoor environment, Building and Environment , Volume 132. 3. Q. Li, M. Kobayashi, Y. Wakayama, H. Inagaki, M. Katsumata, Y. Hirata, K. Hirata, T. Shimizu, T. Kawada, B. J. Park, T. Ohira, T. Kagawa, Y. Miyazaki. (Oct.-Dec. 2009). Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 22(4): 951-959.

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