Are outdoor offices the future?
Spending time outdoors has become trendy. Several studies are now underway on the possibility of bringing the benefits of spending time outdoors to our workplaces. Regular outdoor office work can contribute to healthier employees who feel more alert, more present and less stressed.
The positive effects we experience from being outdoors are reinforced by recent research. In the early 2000s, a team of researchers in Japan began studying what happens in the body when exhausted people take a walk in the woods. They took samples before and after the walks and the long-term results were striking: the immune system was strengthened, stress hormones decreased, and cognitive abilities improved. One could say that nature acts as a resting place for our brains.
Several studies are now underway on the possibility of bringing the positive effects of spending time outdoors into our workplaces. The concept of the outdoor office is here to stay. “Research shows that spending time in nature makes us feel good. It increases empathy, co-operation and well-being,” says Susanna Toivanen, Professor of Sociology at Mälardalen University and Associate Professor at Stockholm University, who is researching the workplace of the future.
We spend 80-90 percent of our time indoors
Despite nature's beneficial effects, we people in the Nordics spend an average of 80-90 percent of our time indoors.
- Traditionally, a lot of office work is done indoors, but there are actually a lot of tasks that can be done outside in nature. Some of the benefits of working outdoors include being more creative, getting fresh air and capturing that all-important daylight, Susanna Toivanen explains.
Too little daylight can make us sleep less
It is not only during the warmer seasons that we should work outdoors - quite the opposite.
“Especially during the darker part of the year, we need to maximise our intake of daylight. Too little daylight can make us sleep less and get more tired during the day,” Susanna Toivanen says.
Working outdoors also reduces stress levels and allows us to recover better, which is positive in today's fast-paced working life with increased sick leave.
How to get started
"For companies that want to get started with outdoor work, it is crucial that managers and other leaders inform, inspire and lead by example," says Susanna Toivanen, and continues:
"Map the available spaces, such as terraces and other outdoor environments. Implementing a workplace culture where it becomes normal to talk on the phone, work or take meetings outside in nature can do a lot of good for employees' health.”
Designing workplaces for optimal health
"For those of us who deliver workplace services, it is important to be part of this development. It feels very important because today we have fewer and fewer opportunities for recovery in everyday life. If you can get a moment of movement and a change of environment, or in the best of all worlds - work parts of the day outdoors, you have a lot to gain."
Business Development Manager at Coor in Sweden
Mälardalen University runs the SOFCO project
SOFCO is an interdisciplinary project run by researchers at Mälardalen University in collaboration with eight different companies, of which Coor is one. The goal of SOFCO is to develop a concept for the sustainable office of the future that promotes healthy lifestyles and good health at work and contributes to sustainable development. The studies will continue through 2023.
For more information, visit sofco.se