By Kathryn Kerby
The national and international crises of the last few years have certainly taken their toll. Mental health professionals have reported record-high levels of depression and anxiety amongst all age groups, even now that Covid is waning, and life is getting back to almost normal. Add in the new wrinkle that many employers and employees are wrestling with issues about whether to continue with a remote or hybrid workforce. We all need a break! Many companies already offer various health perks, including gym memberships. But there is another option that is often free or very low cost, affects us positively, and can include managers with their teams. What is it? It’s literally just outside your front door. To be clear, the Great Outdoors is calling.
Benefits of Getting Outside
Doctors and mental health professionals have known for decades that time spent in nature is soothing and healing in many ways. This article from ChangeCreator.com lists a variety of physical, mental, and emotional benefits, for both individuals and business teams. Here’s a slightly more scholarly article about the benefits of working outside. This blog post talks about ways to bring the outdoors into the office, for those environments where forming a connection with Nature is a little more challenging. And this article from Indeed.com lists quite a few of the benefits which specifically affect a person’s productivity and work attitude. It also provides some suggestions for how to get your staff outdoors during the workday.
When work teams spend time problem-solving outdoors, they carry those bonds and accomplishments back to the workplace.
Photo courtesy of changecreator.com
How to Give Your Employees More Outdoor Time
So now that we know spending time in nature is so beneficial, what next? Here are a few more ideas for getting employees outside, and the benefits of doing so. Then this article from WalkerTracker.com lists 5 different ways that companies can encourage employees to get outdoors, along with ways to measure their participation. Many companies have gone the next step and set up rewards or other benefits for employees who stay engaged with outdoor sports. This article from teambuilding.com provides a wonderful list of wellness programs, inside and out, along with ways to incentivize employees who participate.
How To Harness A Relationship With Nature To Invigorate The Business
Ok, it’s easy to see that spending time in the great outdoors can help us on an individual level. But it seems like a reach to claim it will help our businesses, too. After all, isn’t time outside distracting, disruptive, and unproductive? The counter-intuitive answer is that spending time in nature, and forming stronger bonds with natural settings, actually increases our focus, improves our attitude, and boosts our productivity. This article from School Of The Wild lists 6 reasons why taking your team outdoors for shared experiences in Nature, can benefit everyone once they’re back at work. This article from Brodiepartners.com is another which describes the productivity benefits from taking your team outside. And this article on the Inc.com website also lists the business benefits for a company which spends time outside. Finally, this article from MIT’s Sloan Management Review lists quite a few benefits to a company’s bottom line, once employees embrace and strengthen their relationships with Nature.
Cleaning trails is a great way to get the team working outside, and feeling great afterwards.
Photo courtesy of cleantrails.org
So how does a well-intentioned business owner, manager, or employee get started?
First, keep it simple. Many of the links above list activities which can be done on many business properties, such as hosting meetings outside and going for lunchtime walks. Additional simple-to-implement projects include volunteer efforts, such as cleaning up nearby trails, beaches, parks or forests.
Second, look for ways to magnify your efforts. Teaming up with other companies, local government agencies, schools, nonprofits and other groups can result in synergistic benefits which no one team could accomplish alone. This article from the DoSomething.org website describes 6 ways a company can get involved with volunteer projects. This article from McKinsey talks about how to succeed in partnerships with other groups. It also describes some of the powerful results when companies join forces for environmental and sustainability improvements. Kicking it up a notch, the folks at BSR describe in this article how companies are joining forces to meet national and international sustainability goals.
Third, consider setting higher company goals for environmental and sustainable conduct, and tapping some of your most eager outdoor enthusiasts to help reach those goals. Also consider signing on to local, regional, national, or international pledges to meet those goals. One of the benefits of forming a relationship with Nature is greater buy-in from your employees on making and meeting such goals. If you had only lukewarm interest from your employees on meeting various environmental or sustainability goals, try again after they’ve spent some quality time participating in these outside activities. You may find their interest higher, their dedication stronger, and their willingness to commit to reaching those goals much more inspired.