Making time to get outside can often be the last thing on our minds after a busy work day. Here are five ways to incorporate the outdoors into your working hours

There’s no denying the benefits that being outdoors has on our wellbeing. The importance of getting outside and connecting with nature has been studied over the years but often it’s easier said than done, right? 

For many of us, taking time to step outdoors is one of the last things on our minds. After a busy day at work, sitting down to dinner and everything else in between, it can feel almost impossible to make it happen. Not to mention the added difficulty of the winter months that see us trying to cram everything in whilst it’s still light. 

These darker days can greatly impact our mood and mental wellbeing. Some people may experience seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short. The lack of natural light can lower our concentration levels, suck our energy and cause persistent low mood and depression. Not only does this put a strain on our psychological health, but it can also affect how we work and the quality of our output. 

Whilst many companies are understanding of this and have put in place numerous wellbeing strategies for their employees – like having flexible schedules or hybrid working – this isn’t always possible, particularly in industries bound by indoor jobs or shift work. Even for those who work outdoors, it can be hard to find the time to actually be present in nature and reap its benefits. 

With this in mind, we’re sharing five ways you can get outdoors whilst working (so you don’t have to think about it when you get home!). 

1. Take breaks outdoors 

This one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how even a short burst of fresh air can offer you the space to reset before heading back to work. Each hour or so, try to step away from your desk for a few moments if you can. Step outside if the weather allows and take a moment to breathe in the fresh air. If you’re taking five for a tea or coffee break, pop out whilst the kettle boils or enjoy your cuppa sat outside.

2. Bring the outside in

If it’s not possible to get outdoors, or the weather isn’t on your side, why not bring the outside, in? Sitting by an open window not only allows the fresh air to circulate around you, but also encourages you to tune into the sounds of nature. Listen out for birds chirping or the sound of the trees blowing in the wind…

Another tip is to introduce greenery and flowers into your space if you can. Speaking for Employee Benefits, Dr Stella George, chief medical officer at Cigna Healthcare, notes the benefits of this for employee wellbeing. “Employers could also consider introducing greenery or flowers in the office, such as lavender, which is good at aiding relaxation thanks to its calming scent.” This can be especially beneficial if you don’t have a garden at your disposal.

Learn more about the best houseplants to bring the outside in

3. Take your meetings walking 

We love a walking meeting here at Happiful, and it’s something we try to do whenever the opportunity arises. Naturally, many meetings require you to sit at a table with your laptop or pen and paper, taking notes. However, for those times when you just need to have a phone call, or you’re simply having a catch-up with a colleague or manager, taking a short walk around the office block can do wonders. 

4. Have lunch outside 

It can be tempting to eat lunch whilst sitting at your desk and, while this might seem productive and a good use of time, it could be doing more harm than good. Even if you can’t get outside, we’d always recommend taking your full lunch break. This offers a pause in your day to decompress and re-energise for the afternoon. If you can, try to spend at least a portion of your lunch break outside, whether you sit and enjoy your meal on a park bench, or go for a quick walk. Having a change of scenery helps you reset and, what’s more, spending it in nature can decrease stress hormones, helping us feel more calm and relaxed. 

Top tip: Try to pack your lunch with nutrients that will help increase your energy and boost your mood, including vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

5. Be strategic about where you park

If it’s possible, try to park that little bit further away from the office. Whilst it may not add that much time to your walk into work, the key is to travel in with intent. Instead of focusing on the building door, take a moment to look around you. Look up at the sky… Is anything different since the last time you were here? Perhaps you can notice the change in the leaves on the trees as we move through the seasons. Spending a couple of extra minutes being mindful of your surroundings can set you up for the day ahead.