Work productivity improves after 30 minutes of fresh air outdoors, research shows

LONDON — It won’t take long for you to reap the rewards of spending time in nature, especially if you step outside at work, according to a recent survey of 2,000 employees and 1,000 managers. The research concludes just 29 minutes spent outdoors results in a 45% increase in productivity. Moreover, 63% of surveyed employees say they feel much better “in themselves” after getting some fresh air.

It seems the coronavirus pandemic may be helping employees realize the power of outdoor breaks and flexibility with their schedule. Nearly three in five (57%) managers believe their staff has been more productive since transitioning to remote work.

With these tangible business benefits in mind, half of those managers have started to implement more flexible working conditions that encourage employees to work outside more often. Another 28% of managers plan on taking such steps in the near future.

This research was commissioned by Lenovo. In addition to the survey, Lenovo also asked psychologist Honey Langcaster-James to construct a “Recommended Daily Nature Allowance” or RDNA guide. Langcaster-James says anyone can enjoy wellbeing benefits from as little as 20 active minutes spent in nature, 40 mindful minutes spent outside, or an hour spent working under the sun and clouds.

“Increased flexibility at work means that people can adjust better to increasing demands and find a balance. Spending some time outside in a green space is good for mind, body and soul,” she explains. “Just 20 minutes of active time outside can generally improve our health and wellbeing. That can lead to improved concentration as well as help you generate ideas and be more productive – so it’s a no-brainer to try to find ways to get your RDNA in.”

How doses of nature during the workday boost productivity

A full 40% of employees feel much more productive at work if they are able to get a jog or workout in before the workday begins. Another 40% actually try to break a sweat during short excursions outside over the course of a work day. Similarly, 62% say it’s useful stepping outside periodically to clear their head. Other workers say they’ll outside during the work day to stretch their legs or just get a change of scenery.

Before the pandemic, the average office worker spent 60 minutes outside on a daily basis. Now, that figure has increased to 75 minutes per day outside. Many are happy with this change, and 56% of employees say that spending some time outside every day is a newfound priority for them.

Generally speaking, 84% of surveyed workers say that whenever offices officially reopen, maintaining a flexible work schedule will be key to staying happy and motivated. Some (30%) want to start working remotely four days per week. Another 64% want to work from home more often on a permanent basis.

Beat the seasonal blues with fresh air

This winter may be especially troublesome for people working remotely and staying inside more than usual because of the coronavirus outbreak. But Langcaster-James says zipping up the coat and braving chillier temps is still worth it. It may be especially helpful during the pandemic.

“It’s not always easy, particularly in the colder months, and many people need to leave home to find some green space, but there are ways you can organize your daily life so that you can increase your exposure to nature. Even if it’s just a case of mixing up your office environment with working outside for a period of time each day while the weather is good.”

The survey was conducted via OnePoll.

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