You probably rarely leave your desk at work, let alone your office. That's understandable. It’s all too easy and familiar to feel like you’re at work to work, and that taking breaks or stepping outside is counterproductive. See if this sounds familiar: You go from working individually for your first few hours, to eating lunch at your desk, to spending the rest of your afternoon in meetings within conference rooms. It’s a routine that can easily become a habit—and one that is actually less productive than it may seem.
During the workday, getting outdoors can not only help improve your productivity and wellbeing in the workplace, but it can also be done in short spurts with little effort. Staying at your desk for the whole day leads to workers reaching fatigue, disengagement, and even burnout faster than usual. This is especially true when considering that, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends around 90% of their time indoors. What’s more, in a large report surveying over 7,000 office workers, 47 percent of them said they have no access to natural light at their workstations, and 58 percent said they have no live greenery near them. This pinpoints the priority for more workers to get outdoors during their workday.
Getting outside can be one of the best ways to intermittently wind down a working mind to help your brain recuperate and regain its sharp edge. A number of studies have indicated that being outdoors more can improve short-term memory, decrease stress levels, improve concentration, and enhance one’s mood. This is in part attributable to the sensory richness that an out-of-office environment can provide; in such a setting, your senses are stimulated more so than at your desk, which can increase attentiveness to your surroundings and your focus once back in the office. In addition, bursts of creativity and problem-solving have been known to follow periods of recovery and relaxation in outside environments, which help rejuvenate the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for working memory, planning, coordinating tasks, and other related activities.
The biggest misconception around getting these productivity improvements is that it takes up too much time, especially during the workday. Incorporating small daytime hacks to get the benefits of the outdoors can not only be easy and intermittent, but also more productive in the long run.