Work from Home: The Outdoor Edition

May 28, 2021

Is work from patio the new work from home?

It’s a different type of patio season for us in many parts of Canada.

As the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in Ontario continues into the summer, many people will continue to work from home. With the warm weather upon us, however, work-from-home is quickly turning into work-from-patio or work-from-outside for many employees.

Studies show that changes in air, temperature, and scenery not only boost productivity, but also make you more satisfied with your work. Interacting with nature is a sure-fire way to shake off the stagnant office energy and get some of nature’s benefits into your workday.

Check out some of the amazing benefits of working from outside and some tips on how to optimize that outdoor work experience.

Benefit 1: Reduces Stress

Many of us office-dwellers spend a third of our daily lives in fluorescent lit office buildings, sometimes not getting a glimpse of sunlight until we head home for the day. Although we have created these spaces in an effort to optimize our comfort and productivity, we forgot to pay attention to our more subtle physiological needs.

Office spaces do not mimic our natural environment. Humans respond to sunlight, fresh air, and other elements of the outdoors. In fact, in Japan people regularly practice something called “forest-bathing”, which consists of spending time in nature and connecting with it through senses of sight, smell, sound, touch etc. This “bath” has been shown to significantly decrease stress levels and promote relaxation in a way indoor environments just can’t.

According to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends approximately 93% of his/her time indoors. The good news is that even a small amount of time outdoors can positively impact our health – while also giving our brains a boost, increasing creativity, focus and productivity! So, if you’ve moved your office out to the backyard or balcony, keep up the good work!

Benefit 2: Good Distractions

Productivity is often associated with putting our heads down and grinding out the work that needs to be done. Although periods of this kind of focus are important, taking small breaks throughout your day will undoubtedly improve your work performance. Working outside can provide you with a calming distraction when you need to take a break – one that you can’t get by looking at your phone! Gaze at the sky, listen to the birds chirping, and admire the nearby flowers to give your brain a few minutes to rest and destress. These few minutes of screen avoidance are enough to turn off the sensors that are involved in our stress response, allowing higher brain centers to be accessed and resulting in increased concentration, greater creativity and productivity and reduced mental fatigue when we get back to our screens.

How to make the transition

Work From Home

Despite knowing the benefits of working outside and interacting with nature, many of our home and corporate office spaces are not able to incorporate the outdoors, indoors. So how do you take your work outside with you? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip 1: Shade is your friend

Now is not the time to work on your summer tan. Finding or creating a shady spot for yourself will allow you to be outside for extended periods of time and will be friendly on your electronics – and eyes – as well. Direct sunlight on your laptop screen will cause glare which will in turn, cause your eyes to strain in an effort to see. Additionally, direct sun will overheat your computer. Factor in the draining effects of the sun on your energy and you can see why shade is important for a successful outdoor work session.

Shade can be found under large trees, the sides of buildings, or under a pergola or awning. You can also make your own shade with a large patio umbrella anchored near your workspace.

Tip 2: Make it Easy

Nothing will discourage you faster from working outside than a long and complicated set-up. Keeping all the things you use each day on a serving tray or in a backpack will make it easy to move between your indoor and outdoor workspace, as needed. It will also streamline packing up at the end of your long workday.

Tip 3: Don’t stray too far

Let’s not forget the real key to get any work done – Wi-fi. A strong Wi-fi signal will determine the success or failure of your outdoor workspace. You can’t be productive if you are constantly looking for a strong Wi-fi signal. If working in your backyard, consider a Wi-fi extender. Otherwise, check the signal before you set-up your outdoor office space. A reliable power source is another thing to look out for. If an outdoor outlet is not available, an extension cord or outdoor lighting that terminates in an open outlet are great options. If you will be working away from home, a fully charged computer and portable power station will keep you productive.

Tip 4: Be realistic

Above all, remember to be realistic about working outside. Summer temperatures can get really hot and sometimes working in your airconditioned home is the best option, despite your good intentions. It is also completely acceptable to split your time between outside and inside. If a quiet backyard is not available to you, expecting to tackle tough projects on a blanket in a busy park may not be realistic. A change of scenery a few times a week on days your workload is lighter will do you just as much good, if not better, than 8 hours a day outside.

Tip 5: You don’t have to go outside to get the benefits!

If working outside simply isn’t an option for you, don’t worry! Numerous studies have shown that even looking at photographs of nature or plants inside the office/house can deliver the same cognitive benefits as actually being outdoors. So, if getting outside isn’t in the cards for you, just take some time to look through photos or bring your favourite plant into your workspace. To learn more about how plants in the workspace can benefit both employees and employers, check out this blog!

If you haven’t already moved your office outside, what are you waiting for?

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