behavior · brain · cognition · creativity · environment · happiness · health · Nature · work

Why You Should Take Your Work Outdoors

Happy Friday. I got to start off my work day sitting on my back patio drinking coffee. Here’s why more people should do the same.

Do you feel stifled by the four walls of your office or cubicle?

There’s a reason for that.

Trapping ourselves indoors has created what health experts call a “nature deficit disorder” — depression or anxiety resulting from too little time spend outside. Getting outdoors can do great things for your health. Reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and improving immune function are among nature’s health benefits. What’s more, incorporating elements of nature into your workday can also give your brain a boost, resulting in increased productivity, focus and creativity.

Harvard physician Eva M. Selhub, co-author of Your Brain on Nature, says a drop of nature is like a drop of morphine to the brain, since it “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure and improved immune response.”

Turning off the sensors that are involved in the stress response allows the higher brain centers to be accessed, resulting in increased concentration, improved memory, greater creativity and productivity and reduced mental fatigue. While Selhub says spending 20 minutes a day outdoors is recommended, studies have shown even looking at photographs of nature can deliver some of the same cognitive benefits as physically being outdoors. A 2008 study at the University of Michigan showed students who looked at photos of nature performed better on tests of attention and working memory than those who looked at photographs of urban scenes.

More reasons, and tips how, via Entrepreneur Magazine

community · creativity · environment

Creating Open & Collaborative Cultures through Play

A really great look at playfulness in a corporate environment.

Annemarie Steen

worrySince 2004 IBM conducts every two years a Global CEO Survey among global business and public sector leaders to research what keeps them busy (at night in bed). The survey consists of in-person interviews with (in 2012) over 1700 CEO’s worldwide.

More than half of all CEO’s see Human Capital, Customer Relationships and Innovation as key sources of sustained economic value (report 2012).

The findings (2010 & 2012) show a fast growing need for some critical capabilities of employees, in order to deal with the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. These include; creativity and creative leadership, collaborativeness, connectedness, communication and flexibility.

To foster these capabilities “CEO’s are creating more Open & Collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. The emphasis on Openness is even higher among Outperforming organizations(*) – and they have the changemanagement-capabilities to make it…

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architecture · behavior · community · culture · design · environment · Nature

The office for people who hate offices

This is a great idea! So many people have told me how they hate being inside the office all day, especially on nice summer days like this. We NEED exposure to the outdoors and nature in order to stay productive, mentally healthy, and physically fit. Just a 20-minute walk in the woods can have the same productivity benefits as an hour-long nap.

What’s your dream office? If you fantasize about bouldering on your lunch break–and appreciate being in a zero-waste, net zero-energy environment–you might want to take a look at the soon-to-be-completed space in the slideshow above: the new Alameda, Calif. headquarters of VF Corporation‘s outdoor and action sports coalition brands, which include The North Face, Lucy, and Jansport.

Now that VF’s outdoor brands are on good financial footing (especially The North Face), the corporation is working on a headquarters–set to be completed this summer–that was built with employee wish lists in mind. It shows.Below, some of the amenities available at the new 160,000-square-foot complex (many of them suggested by an employee task force).

  • A large onsite garden that will grow things like kale, tomatoes, and basil. VF expects to grow so much that employees won’t even be able to consume all of it. Leftover will be donated to a local food bank. Employees will be encouraged to help out with the garden, but local volunteers will also pitch in. A side note: Originally, VF toyed with the idea of installing a volleyball court, but employees elected to grow a garden instead.
  • Lots of natural light. 90% of employees will have access to direct sunlight, and in many areas of the complex, the overhead lights can often be kept off. Bonus: All the windows in the complex open (this should be a given, but it isn’t always).
  • Opportunities for onsite fitness, including an indoor fitness area and yoga room, an outside training area for bootcamp, an outside bouldering space, and an outdoor gear rental and repair shop.
  • A cafe serving the vegetables grown in the garden, among other things.
  • Eventually, if employees are really lucky, the ability to kayak out into the water just outside the complex (VF would need to make sure this is feasible and legal first, but employees have been asking for it).
  • A convenient location for almost everyone. When VF first started thinking about the new complex, it “took employee addresses and mapped out where they were” to figure out an ideal spot, according to Steve Rendle, group president of VF’s Outdoor & Action Sports Americas.
  • The office space is inside out: executive offices are in the middle of the room, and other employees sit by the windows.

VF is far from the only corporation to have an environmentally and outdoors-friendly campus. New Belgium Brewing Company, for example, buys clean energy, powers itself partially with methane from an on-site water treatment plant–and it offers perks like free bicycles and volleyball.

But the idea of a company keeping employees active, innovating, and considering the environment shouldn’t be a novel one. We hope, in other words, that this becomes a trend well outside the outdoor apparel industry.

Find out more here.

The only thing I’m bummed about is that they didn’t use one of the hangars on the old Alameda Air Base, that closed down just over 12 years ago and hasn’t had much development done with it since. It would have been very “green” to recycle those old structures, but I also understand the price and space limitations. Still, very exciting overall, and I hope this trend continues with new office buildings.