With growing awareness of the benefits of nature on our psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing, why aren’t we looking to integrate the outdoors more into working life? Empty Office Day calls on companies and organisations to plan quality time outdoors on 17th June each year, helping them to discover, value and promote the benefits of integrating the outdoors into the working day as an aid to creative thinking, problem solving and stress reduction.
By Karen Liebenguth, Green Space Coaching & Mindfulness Training
When you spend most of your day in an office, at a desk, in meetings, with a dash and grab lunch and glued to your smart devices, then work morale, creativity and productivity can take a hit. Getting outdoors can help to free us from day-to-day constraints, pressures and habitual ways of thinking and behaving.
Inspired by Empty Classroom Day, myself and fellow coach, Simon Hawtrey-Woore, are launching Empty Office Day on 17th June 2016, a new, yearly initiative that aims to celebrate and promote connection and wellbeing outside the office, by spending time as an organisation or team outdoors, in natural green space.
Empty Office Day calls on organisations and companies from all sectors to plan quality time outdoors on 17th June, and to take part in at least one activity outdoors.
We hope that offices will begin emptying here in the UK in our inaugural year, and then like ripples on a lake, spread internationally, with staff spending time in nature to foster health, connection, trust and creativity.
Green space is good for us
Back in 2008, the University of Michiganshowed that going outside, even in the cold, improved memory and attention, and that in workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees were more productive and took less sick time.
The body of evidence in support of getting outside more has grown thick and fast since then; indeed, as humans, we have a hard-wired disposition to connect with the natural world.
Nature – a catalyst for creative thinking and stress reduction
I’ve always been a keen advocate of bringing green space into a working day – or any day for that matter; it’s integral to how I work (coaching while walking in green space, plus running team building workshops and mindfulness training outdoors). A dose of Vitamin ‘N’ (‘N’ for nature, as described by American Writer, Richard Louv), is not only ‘vital for our physical and mental health in our technology-dependent age’, but also a great catalyst for creative thinking, problem solving and stress reduction.
Today, very few jobs involve moving around much anymore and what’s more, many work cultures don’t encourage taking breaks regularly, despite official health recommendations suggesting that regular 5-10 minute breaks away from the screen sustain productivity and resourcefulness.
Did you know that on average, we spend 9.3 hours a day sitting down, and this really is not good for us.
By integrating green space into our working day – a walk in the park at lunchtime, walking part of the journey into or home from work, talking 1:1 meetings outdoors – we become more resilient, feel more positive, more content and reinvigorated. (See my tips for getting out of the office).
There’s a whole host of activities organisations and teams can get involved in – independently or with facilitation, and there’s plenty of ideas for getting active outdoors on the Empty Office Day website. What organisations and teams do is up to them – from team building activities to conservation work, from treasure hunts to nature activities like guided walks and pond dipping, from team games (football, Frisbee, rounders baseball) to cycling or even canoeing – the choice of activities is endless.
Become an Empty Office Day Champion
We are looking to involve a wide range of organisations to support and champion Empty Office Day 2016. To date we are delighted to have secured the support of: The Department of Human Geography at UCL, the Network of Wellbeing (NOW) and The Canvas Cafe Creative Venue. As an Empty Office Day Champion, we will publicise your support on the Empty Office Day website, press notices and promotional materials (where possible) and case studies of your organisation’s activities for Empty Office Day 2016.
With our shared passion in helping people develop and grow through experiencing the benefits of being outdoors, my coaching colleague Simon Hawtrey-Woore and I are able to offer organisations inspiration as well as a range of facilitated activities outdoors. These activities include:
- Team development workshops in natural green space, using the natural learning cycle and other methods to clarify purpose and shared values, plus activities to support the development of team spirit and connection
- Facilitated organisational away days outdoors in one of London’s parks (for example, Victoria Park, Hampstead Heath, Richmond Park, Ravenscourt Park Community Gardens)
- Guided walks with team activities in one of London’s parks
- 1:1 coaching while walking in London’s green space, suitable for employees, managers and leaders
- Two-day residential workshops for teams and leadership teams at Hazel Hill Woods Nature Reserve, Wiltshire or Green & Away in the Malvern Hills
We hope that Empty Office Day will inspire many of you to explore the many ways you can get out of the office and enjoy the great outdoors!