Working outside

It has become increasingly obvious that the vaccine is not going to be the instant solution to our covid-shaped problem. “It is axiomatic that only the people can overcome a pandemic, as observed throughout history” [1] I read in an article in October last year. This means that we need to reclaim our agency and find different ways of doing the same things we used to do before – to stop the virus from spreading through us to others.

I am one of the fortunate few who have been able to work on-line in individual and group coaching sessions. This is obviously the safest way to work, but has become increasingly unsatisfying between the effects of zoom-fatigue and the challenges of reading body language expressed through facial expression or tone of voice. We are relational beings and long for face-to-face interaction, but the dangers of not complying with covid measures and thinking that it just won’t affect us are obvious in the increase of numbers we are seeing during this second wave. As the WHO Director-General stated at a media briefing 8 January 2021, “The problem is that before you know it, not complying a bit becomes a habit, people you know mimic the behaviour and the whole system breaks down.” [2]

So we need to explore other ways of working safely. We cannot just go back to the old normal.

Over the last decade there has been growing interest in the positive effect of working outside. The benefits are numerous: being in nature improves your physical health by boosting your immune response and your body’s ability to heal; it elevates energy, lessens pain and inflammation, and reduces blood pressure and heart rate. It enhances your mental well-being by boosting your mood, creativity, concentration and short-term memory, lengthening your sleep and stabilising stress levels. It enriches teamwork by increasing feelings of trust, community and goodwill, as well as decreasing sick days.

With this list of benefits added to the reduced risk of infection when we are outside, it seems obvious to take our work into the open air as much as possible. What meetings, group activities, interviews, coffee and business lunches can we take outside into nature? What do we need to do to make outside spaces appealing as work areas? Could we put furniture under a tree; add some nature in the form of potted plants and a bird bath to a rooftop area or patio (along with furniture and sun shades); or organise wi-fi, anti-glare screens and accessible plug points for laptops in outside areas?

I have an outside area – where I can potentially work with individuals or groups. So I spent most of my down-time last month in my garden, developing the area surrounding my lapa to be a place of more colour and beauty. It is still a work in progress, I admit. In the process of expending all that energy outside, I have already experienced the benefits I listed above. I look forward to sharing those benefits with others in the near future.

What can you do at your place of work to facilitate a move to working outside in nature more?












    1. Thanks, Peggy. We need to find safe ways to interact with our colleagues outside. I was wondering if workplaces that don’t have access to their own outside spaces could perhaps make use of outside restaurants…

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