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It’s in to work outside

While working from home during the pandemic, many people have discovered the benefits of walk-and-talks to boost energy and soak up some vitamin D. Susanna Toivanen, Professor of Sociology at Mälardalen University hopes that we will take this new approach with us into the future.

“Research shows that spending time in nature is good for us. It increases our ability to empathize, collaborate and improves wellbeing,” Susanna Toivanen, Professor of Sociology at Mälardalen University explains. Susanna is currently working on a research project on the workplaces of the future.  

Despite the beneficial effects of spending time outdoors, Scandinavians tend to spend 80-90 percent of their time inside.  

“Traditionally, most office work takes place indoors, but a number of tasks can actually be carried out in nature. Some of the advantages of working outside are that it makes us more creative, and it exposes us to fresh air and important daylight hours.”  

It is not only during the warmer months of the year that we can work outside – quite the opposite.   

“It is during the darker part of the year that we need to maximize our exposure to daylight. Not getting enough daylight interferes with sleep patterns and makes us more tired during the day,” Susanna Toivanen explains.  

Working outdoors also reduces stress levels and helps us recover faster, a positive factor in today’s workplaces where stress levels and sickness absences can be high.  

So how can employers get their staff to take their work outside? 
“Companies wanting to get started with working outdoors need to ensure that managers and other leaders inform and inspire their staff and lead by example,” Susanna Toivanen explains. 

She suggests that employers try out different solutions to start with, including looking at existing outdoor spaces near the office.

“Start by charting your existing spaces, such as terraces and other outdoor areas. A workplace culture that normalizes taking calls, doing tasks or meeting in nature can significantly benefit employee health.”

Work suited to being done outdoors:

  • Tasks where you need to think and generate ideas.
  • Tasks that involve reading and writing.
  • Walk-and-talks.
  • Taking calls and phone/computer-based meetings.

Suitable locations for working outdoors:

  • Terraces or gardens 
  • Public parks 
  • Courtyards 
  • Walkways