Most Americans – in fact, nearly 90 percent of us – spend the majority of our time indoors. We may be seated at our desks in front of a computer for eight hours a day or peering into a laptop screen at home or a café. Unfortunately, these patterns of sedentary activity can have serious consequences on our health and well-being.
According to science, bringing your work outside has many benefits that can reverse the effects of a desk job. So why haven’t most employers caught on?
The Cons of Working at a Desk
Humans were not designed to be sitting indoors all day. Spending time outdoors, participating in physical activity, and taking walks bring us back to our roots as people who lived and roamed outside. Sitting at a desk for several hours at a time removes us from our affinity for the outdoor environment and can lead to poor health conditions over time.
Indeed, the dangers of a desk job include a greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. On a day-to-day, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to greater fat accumulation on the body, retinal cell damage from staring at LED screens, and high levels of bacteria from those found on computer keyboards and desks.
Why Employees Need to Work Outdoors
Being outdoors exposes workers to fresher air and environmental variations that are crucial to making us happy and healthy on a physical and emotional level. A quick walk outside has been shown to boost short-term memory, lower blood pressure, improve mood, boost energy, and Natural light and fresh air can improve immune system functions and help employees sleep better and feel less depressed. This can translate to fewer sick days and better focus and concentration in the workplace.
While the scientific benefits of being outside are well-established, 65 percent of employees say that their work actually is the reason that they don’t get outside as much as they would like. This is why science-savvy tech companies such as Google have worked to change their employees’ day-to-day work environment, bringing the outdoors into the office to boost employee performance. The tech giant has introduced changes such as skylights that let in more natural light and views of greenery to replicate the outdoor environment and help employees find focus and creativity.
What Companies and Employees Can Do
Of course, not all companies can afford to reimagine their office space like Google. Plus, the nature of your industry may not lend itself to being outside all day. However, employers can introduce new practices into the workplace that allow employees to reap the benefits of the outdoors. Activities like daily exercises, casual walking meetings, and outdoors lunches provide a change of scenery and environment while growing indoor plants and providing a view of greenery can relax workers and relieve stress. These changes to the office will go a long way in improving the happiness and performance of employees.
Employers can also allow employees to occasionally work outside the office or set up an outdoor workspace. Using either a wi-fi access point or cell phone data tethering, an employee can set up a space at an outdoor table and use anti-glare screens to enjoy the benefits of fresh air, greenery, and ambient light while maintaining their productivity.
Nature has a more powerful effect on us than we think. Whether we are talking a leisurely or doing intense physical activity, the outdoors can not only positively impact our health, which in turn positively impacts the bottom line of businesses. Want to learn more about the scientific evidence in support of outdoor work? Check out the following infographic from BigRentz for 17 research-backed reasons why you should start encouraging outdoor work.
About the author: Lior Zitzman is the Director of Digital Audience at BigRentz, a construction equipment rentals marketplace with a network of over 1,500 rental partners. He has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise-level SEO at automotive publishing and equipment companies. In his spare time, he enjoys website development, gadgets, and fishing.