Working at a desk all day can be notoriously stressful. Hours spent inside, surrounded by computers, phones, and man-made everything can lead to “technostress” and burnout.
Stressed employees are not only unhappy, they’re often sick and less effective at work. If you want to boost your business productivity, it pays to keep your team healthy.
What’s wrong with the office environment? People who sit at desks all day are mostly sedentary, which causes obvious health conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease. Further, office work is inseparable from computers and the Internet, both which can cause anxiety.
To deal with employee stress, consider a variety of preventive solutions including wellness programs and tips on important topics such as getting enough sleep.
Now let’s look at a simple remedy right outside the door: Nature is a powerful and immediate health booster.
Healing Power of Forest Bathing
Japanese businessmen are known to work extremely long hours—to the point of fatal overwork. So, in the 1980s, the Japanese government introduced the concept of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” to encourage people to reconnect with nature.
The principles of forest bathing are basic: Take a leisurely walk in nature. Disconnect from technology. (No phones and cameras!) Experience nature with full attention.
While walking in the woods is ideal, forest bathing can be applied anywhere. Simply go outside, away from tall buildings and busy traffic. This might mean a park or beach near your office.
Immersion in nature has long been considered to produce health benefits. Green spaces are known to lower blood pressure, promote cancer-fighting cells, and lower anxiety and depression. With so many potential pluses, why not introduce the principles of forest bathing to your team?
3 Ways of Bringing Nature to the Workplace
Forest bathing ideally means at least 30 minutes in an actual forest. But standard work schedules might preclude that. Here are ways to incorporate elements of forest therapy into your corporate culture:
1. Organize Walking Meetings
Sitting and staring at a screen all day might seem easy. But computer work is draining. Chances are, your employees are coping with eye fatigue, mental exhaustion, and back pain.
For a healthy change, try walking meetings. Instead of standard discussions around a table, talk while taking a walk. Sure, you can’t have videos, whiteboards, or coffee and doughnuts. But spending 10 or 15 minutes outside might be just the re-charge your team needs.
Physically, walking is beneficial for the heart, muscles, and bones. Mentally, a change of scenery—especially in nature—elevates mood and eases stress. People will return to work with fresh perspectives.
2. Grow Plants in the Office
Office workers spend most of their lives indoors—with the majority of hours spent at work. If your employees spend 40 or more hours weekly on site, why not create a pleasant workplace environment?
Bring the benefits of greenery into the office. Office plants not only absorb pollutants and carbon dioxide, but they can enhance mood and happiness—especially if each employee has responsibility for a plant “friend.” In BC, the small-business owner who started a “plant at every desk” initiative reaped a 30 percent increase in productivity. While his story is just one anecdote, buying plants is a low-risk expense.
3. Take Afternoon Walks as a Team
While long forest walks might not fit into your work schedule, introduce the idea of nature immersion with 10-minute group walks. If there’s a nearby park or nature area, organize outings on a daily or regular basis.
This would give employees a taste of forest bathing. Not only would they appreciate an outdoor break from routine, but they might adopt full-scale forest bathing in their free time.
In addition, interaction with colleagues outside the office can foster camaraderie. People relate differently in non-office settings. With stronger team bonds, employees will likely be more cooperative with one another.
As the world becomes increasingly urbanized and “computerized,” people are losing touch with nature. Ironically, nature could be the very antidote that our fast-paced, high-tech society needs. Bring the outdoors into your workplace with walks and meetings amid trees—and with desktop plants. These are simple, cost-efficient ways to enrich the health of your team—and of your company.