Where you work dramatically impacts your productivity, satisfaction, and well-being. To clarify, we are not talking about the company you work for, but the literal, physical space in which you work. In fact, research shows that four environmental factors play a major role in your effectiveness and experience at work, these factors are; light, sound, temperature, and proximity to nature.
A 2012 Cornell University study found that employees who sit closer to windows with natural light report being two percent more productive and feeling 10% less drowsy than their windowless colleagues. Additionally, research shows that the presence of plants in the office increases productivity by 15% and reduces tension and anxiety by 37%. These findings have spurred the biophilic design movement, or the building of office spaces to resemble, incorporate, and accentuate elements of nature to support employee productivity. Whether you find yourself working in a commercial space or from home, simple changes like adding a plant to your workspace, or situating yourself by a window are sure to lift your spirits.
If bringing elements of nature to the workplace has such positive effects, what stands to be gained from bringing employees into nature?
Looking to answer this very question, a group of researchers from the University of Kansas assessed the performance of two groups on creative problem-solving. One group took the task before a four-day wilderness hike (without access to the Internet or cell phones), while the other group took it after the hike. The group who took the creativity task after the four-day wilderness hike scored 50% higher than the group who took the test before the hike. These findings provide evidence that exposure to nature improves one’s creative ability.
While being constantly tethered to laptops and smartphones may give the impression of productivity, it is often this relationship with technology that leads to an always-on mentality, and the subtle, yet profound impacts of “technostress.” Ultimately, the price we pay for investing so much time communicating and working via technology is the inability to dedicate our full attention to ideas and people, the fundamental building blocks of progress.
Being around nature has significant and positive effects on your health and well-being at work. These effects are magnified when you get out into nature and take advantage of its replenishing effect on parts of the brain dedicated to complex work tasks. By stepping into nature and disconnecting (from technology) you can reconnect with yourself and your team for what will not only be a memorable growth experience, but a powerful opportunity to boost productivity and refresh attention.
In sum, being in nature, or around nature, has a replenishing effect on parts of the brain that are often dedicated to complex work tasks. Connecting with your team and reconnecting with yourself in nature is not only a memorable growth experience, but a powerful opportunity to boost productivity, refresh attention, and spark creativity.