Finally, the warmer weather has arrived and for those of us still working from home, we now have the potential and privilege to be able to work outdoors! Updating your garden area to facilitate an al fresco office will have all sorts of benefits so long as you can make the experience as comfortable as possible.
The power of nature should not be underestimated. It can affect our mood, especially in terms of how happy and productive we are. Changes in the air, the temperature and the scenery will all serve to break up the monotony of the work environment which can be stagnant and repetitive even in a stimulating and challenging career.
Believe it or not, a human’s natural environment is not filled with artificial lighting and laptops. Being in an artificial environment causes stress. One only has to look at the way wild animals behave when taken out of their natural habitat and exposed to human interaction and confinements such as cages, enclosed pools, central heating, air conditioning and unfamiliar noises. It’s not what’s on their minds that stresses them, but the environment they’re exposed to.
Your garden or other outdoor space you choose to work in, will be a welcome distraction, encouraging you to move your eyes away from your screen. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, shift the eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. Looking into the distance allows the eyes to relax.
Everyone needs to concentrate on their work, so for periods of the day you may remain very focussed and still, but just like a warm down period after a gym workout, sometimes you need to be able to warm down from your job. Outdoors, this can take the form of watching birds on a feeder, aeroplanes in the sky or listening to the noise of others. These are all ways to ‘warm down’ from an intense period of work.
In order to fully prepare for outdoor working, invest in a laptop with a glare-free screen. Some brands even sell laptops specifically intended for outdoor use. But if you’re not able to invest in a new laptop then simply consider a protective sleeve to create a barrier to armour your laptop from a fall, spillage or the weather – sun or rain!
Consider your internet connection. You might need to boost your home WiFi with an extender if you’re intending to work at the bottom of the garden. An alternative is to connect to your mobile phone hotspot (great if you’re in the park), though you need to be mindful of your data allowance on some contracts.
Sitting under a tree, a pergola or sun umbrella can offer shade to help read your screen. It’s stressful permanently squinting and not good for technology to be heating up under the sun’s rays. Maybe forgo the nice, warm sun and reserve that pleasure for your coffee and lunch breaks, retreating to the shade for the majority of the working day.
Make sure your chair is comfy and that there’s support for your back; lounging on an outdoor sofa might seem idyllic but it wouldn’t be helpful or healthy to maintain that position day in, day out. We know from well-publicised incidences of deep vein thrombosis that sitting for long periods at a time can be very detrimental to your health, even fatal. Working outside should remove the tendency to be based in your chair all day.
Whether your desk is the patio table, a built in barbecue, a pub bench or a shelf attached to a wall, ensure it’s the right height at which to sit comfortably. According to www.blitzresults.com, around 80% of all people suffer from back pain at least once in their lives, and 10% of workplace absenteeism can be attributed to a back condition. This is often related to poor posture, the seat we choose to sit on and the height and angle at which we have our desk. If you log on to the Blitz Results website using the link www.blitzresults.com/gb/ergonomic you’ll be able to access their calculator which can determine the height your chair should be, the height your desk is positioned at and the height of your armrests, all dictated by how tall you are.
With many industries focused on digital working rather than paper-based systems, it’s never been easier to be able to work outdoors. So this summer, take a step into your garden, or into a pub garden or park, breathe in the fresh air and know that whilst your outdoor office might seem like an indulgence it is certain to be making you more efficient and effective in your work.