Recent scientific studies from a variety of sources have increasingly supported the idea that spending time outside not only benefits the health of busy employees, but can also make them more productive. It’s therefore in the best interest of both employer and employee to have all workers spend some time outside during the workday. Here are six scientifically-backed reasons why your employees should spend more time outside.
It restores workers’ mental energy:
“Mental fatigue,” is the technical term for the apparent decrease in brain function that occurs when people work for long periods of time without breaks. Research has shown that exposing the mind to restorative environments, which generally refers to the outdoors, can help restore mental energy. This helps reduce stress for employees, and also helps them to be more productive by restoring some energy. In one study, participants’ mental energy seemed to bounce back even when they were just shown photos of nature.
Boost employees’ physical and mental health:
No employee wants to regularly be unable to work due to illness. Spending time each day walking outdoors has been shown to have a possible beneficial effect on human immune system function, as reported in the Business Insider Article cited above. Multiple studies have also shown that spending time outdoors, particularly in a forest environment, helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Spending time outside, particularly when exercise involved, will help keep your employees healthy.
Spending Time Outside Is Important for Sleep
Nobody is at their best when they don’t get enough sleep, particularly at work. One of the biggest factors affecting sleep is our natural circadian rhythms, which are strongly affected by exposure to sunlight. If employees are spending too much time indoors, the lack of exposure to the sun can negatively impact their sleep, which will make it harder for them to focus and more likely to get sick.
Time Outdoors Can Increase Employee Memory and Concentration
One study from the University of Illinois found that, among 17 children with ADHD, children taken to walk in “green areas” had improved concentration afterward. Another study from the University of Michigan, which tested adults, found the same benefits. With all the evidence that spending time outdoors can boost memory and concentration, it’s clear why many employers now want their employees to get more time outside.
Boosted Creative Thinking Skills
Business Insider quotes a study which found that, after a multi-day wilderness expedition, a group of adults showed increased performance on creative problem-solving tests. Creativity and problem-solving skills are key to most professional fields, providing another reason that allowing employees time outside during work can boost their overall performance.
Wilderness Therapy Proves the Benefits of the Outdoors
Outdoor, or wilderness therapy, which first became clinically used in the 90s, is the use of wilderness expeditions for therapeutic purposes. Among the therapeutic effects of outdoor expeditions include reduced stress, increase in mood and energy levels, plus all the benefits of exercising on the expeditions. Many legitimate groups have advocated and practiced it, and we know from this field that there are many possible benefits of wilderness treatment for stressed workers, whether you choose to schedule wilderness expeditions or simply allow for time outdoors during the workday.
By allowing employees regular time outside each day, you will not only help them feel happier and stay healthier, but are likely to also see an improvement in their overall performance. With such a breadth of research now supporting the physical and mental benefits of regular time outdoors, making it common practice for employees at your business seems like the the clear path to take.
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