Humans have spent 90 percent of our existence working outdoors. And though most of us probably wouldn’t quit our current office jobs to take up hunting and gathering, the “office” part of our modern workplaces is a big problem. According to an article published recently in the Atlantic titled “The Mind Does Not Belong in a Cubicle,” the most natural and comfortable place for human beings to work is outdoors. Even if we’re working on laptops, tablets, and smartphones, our proximity to nature has a huge affect on our mood, productivity, efficiency, and creativity. And that’s why traditional office jobs need to make way for work flexibility, especially regarding WHERE we work.

Working Close to Nature

Earlier this year, as the first nice days of spring started appearing, a coworker and I cheerfully noted how much more productive we are once spring arrives. Even though we both work indoors, our proximity to the seasonal changes taking place outside our home office windows has a tremendous impact on our mood, and therefore, our productivity.

Over the last 100 years as more people started working in offices, the issue in designing office spaces became how to corral professionals into a space that would force them to focus, and the cubicle was born. But studies consistently show that “knowledge workers” are better able to perform cognitive functions when they’ve been exposed to nature in some way, whether it be green plants in an office, or proximity to a window and a big blue sky.

Work Flexibility for Well-Being

Though offices designed to utilize natural light, fresh air, greenery, and outdoor space can go a long way to improving employees’ well-being and therefore, productivity, the ultimate goal of any company should be to get flexible in as many ways as possible.

Nikil Saval, author of Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, shares, “Design only does so much….” The Atlantic article explains that according to Saval, “The real answer… is moving to a shorter or more flexible workday, which would give workers the autonomy to pursue outdoor activities on their own terms. It is the endless workday confined to a single space that is so damning to white-collar well-being.”

Nature and Flexible Work Options

Flexible work options like the ability to work from home or have a flexible schedule really are a fantastic solution to the issue of cubicle drudgery. I’m typing this from my home office. Fresh air is blowing in from my open window, natural light fills the space, and I can easily (and often do!) take my laptop to the picnic table in my backyard to work from the great outdoors.

I can also adjust my work hours throughout the year to account for changing daylight, so I can make the most of potential outdoor time while it’s available. In the winter months, I try to get up earlier and work while it’s still dark outside, so that I can go for a mid-morning walk with my dog and enjoy the limited sunshine during our shortest months. All of these options support my well-being and my productivity, two things that benefit both my employer and myself.

Readers, how do you work the great outdoors into your work day? If you could work from home or have a flexible schedule, would you take advantage of that flexibility to spend more time in nature?

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