“A drop of nature is like a drop of morphine to the brain.”
Harvard Professor Eva M Selhub found the great outdoors “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure and improved immune response.”
But you don’t have to be a Harvard professor to know that feeling of being trapped in a small unnatural work space and the sense of relief and stimulation that comes from stepping outside are real. While part of this “nature high” is undeniable related to taking a break, the physical, mental, motivational and creative benefits of just being outdoors are often under appreciated.
Depression and anxiety resulting from not spending enough time outside has now been dubbed Nature Deficit Disorder by health experts. An estimated 30% of Australian’s suffer from a vitamin D deficiency despite living in one of the sunniest countries on earth.
As people come to realise the benefits fresh air, sun, space and greenery can have on them and their work, they are striving to find new ways to weave nature into their daily work life.
In New York co-work providers are now offering spaces with and without walls. In London, you can book a meeting in a treehouse and the growing tribe of digital nomads is driving new and creative outdoor workspaces all around the world. Let’s face it, you don’t travel to sit indoors.
Walking meetings couple the benefits of being outdoors with the those of exercise.
Many Co-work spaces and corporates are opening up courtyards, roof tops, laneways and any other outdoor space they can find. Sitting in a stifling office for 8 hours a day every day just doesn’t cut it anymore if you want the best results.
While workers were once physically bound to their offices and colleagues by necessity, technology has set them free. Ironically it is technology that now makes it possible for many workers to work remotely and get back to nature. WIFI, light-weight laptops and a whole range of purpose-built gadgets and apps makes it possible for freelancers, small business owners and employee of enlightened corporates set up shop from a park bench should they choose.
But if you can’t take it outside, bring outside in. The 2014 study, The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Workspaces, looked at the effect of having greenery in or visible from offices. Participants reported a 15% rise in productivity with some also claiming improvement in concentration, positivity and general well-being. Studies show even looking at a picture of nature can have some benefits.
The evidence is clear. Whichever way you can manage it, inject a bit of nature into your work day and soak in the benefits.
My Hustle in South Fremantle is proud home to a beautiful courtyard and happy co-workers.