Benefits of Working with Nature
20 minutes outdoors is as good as a cup of coffee!
We all intuitively know that spending time in nature is great for our health and wellbeing, and there are many studies to support this. A 2016 survey of office workers (who live within 5km of Sydney CBD) found 80% of people wanted the opportunity to work outside in nature during their work day. The key motivator was wellness, clearer thinking, less stress, and feeling healthier. Despite this however, less than 10% actually took their work outside. The two most prominent reasons for not working outside was: culture (not being OK with the boss) and technology (not being able to use Wi-Fi).
Deakin University’s Health, Nature and Sustainability Research Group’s associate researcher Dr Rona Weerasuriya, who co-wrote Beyond Blue to Green: the benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being says Australians need to get out among the greenery. “Nature allows the opportunity for people to experience relaxation, rejuvenation, improved affective states and connect with people, among a host of other health and wellbeing benefits,” she said. “Simply escaping out into nature provides the freedom, relaxation and physical activity, which is needed and known to have a positive impact on mental states such as anxiety and depression.”
And research conducted by a Melbourne University team has also found taking ‘green booster breaks’ throughout the working day can give our mind the rest it needs. Melbourne University researcher Dr Kate Lee said natural views improve attentiveness for fatigued workers. “We have shown the unique properties of natural views boost concentration to top up energy reserves so tasks feel less effortful. This means employees may feel and perform better at work,” she said. “Research also suggests that workplace greenery provides an enriching experience that helps employees feel more engaged at work.”
And here are just a few of the many other benefits that working with nature has to offer:
Improved health – we have all experienced that time in nature improves both physical and mental health. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues could be eased by some time outdoors – especially when it’s combined with exercise from a walking meeting.
Improved short-term memory – studies have found that walks in nature boost working memory much more than walks in urban environments.
Restored mental energy – we all know the feeling when your brain is completely overworked and your suffering from ‘mental fatigue.’ Research has found that exposure to the great outdoors can help your mental energy bounce back. Even looking at pictures of nature has proved beneficial.
Reduced stress levels – feeling stressed? We recommend heading for the trees. One study found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol of people in the forest when compared to those in the city. And among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.
Improved concentration – we all know that nature is ‘restorative’ and that even a quick walk outside can restore your fading attention. Other studies have found that even looking at a green roof can markedly increase concentration.
Sharper thinking and creativity – one of nature’s many benefits is how it can improve attention and memory. One study found that when people were asked to repeat sequences of numbers, they were much more accurate after a walk in nature.