Stuck in a creative rut?
Need more energy?
The cure for all these ills — and more! — is nature.
Whether you choose forest bathing, hiking, biking or a walk on the beach, the very act of connecting with nature improves mood, energy and focus.
Science tells us nature makes us happier and healthier. So smart companies today are listening. They’re leveraging the power of nature to create happier, healthier spaces and happier, healthier employees.
Who doesn’t want their employees to be more creative, more focused and happier at work? Happiness is, after all, a key driver of employee loyalty, employee engagement, and employee retention.
The Nature of Happiness at Work
Does nature make us happier at work? Yes!
In her book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative, author Florence Williams explains that natural spaces — even citified versions of them — can help us feel psychologically restored, making us healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more apt to engage with the world and with each other.
Author Ingrid Fetell Lee spent 10 years exploring how an intangible concept like joy could manifest in the physical world, a journey she describes in her TEDx talk “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It.” Her key finding was that “the physical world can be a powerful resource to us in creating happier, healthier lives.”
And in his book Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, author Dr. Wallace J. Nichols describes water as medicine for our health and well-being. The book takes a deep dive into explaining how proximity to water can increase performance, calm, and professional success.
Clearly nature is essential to happiness at work — a concept co-author Rosaria Cirillo Loumann and I detail in Yellow Goldfish, our guide to the nine ways to find and create H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. in the workplace. In the book, we look at how more than 300 companies provide little extras to contribute to the happiness of their customers, employees, and society.
Nature is the sixth factor of the H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. equation we’ve defined, and the sixth in a blog series taking a closer look at all nine factors that help businesses increase happiness to drive growth, productivity, success, and bottom-line results. Read the first five blogs in the series here:
So why happiness? Happiness is the ultimate WHY, the most sustainable competitive advantage, and the ultimate currency in business. Today’s most successful companies prioritize happiness to boost employee engagement and loyalty.
Nature is Good for Business
Nature is good for people — and, therefore, it’s good for business. Here’s three reasons:
- Nature reduces sick days. According to a University of Oregon study, providing employees with a view of trees and landscape reduced the amount of sick time they took.
- Nature boosts productivity. Psychologists from Exeter University concluded employees were 15 percent more productive when looking at greenery, achieved just by bringing plants into the office. The research showed the plants also increased concentration and employee satisfaction.
- Nature reduces stress. Considering workplace stress costs U.S. businesses $190 billion a year in healthcare costs alone, reducing it should be a top priority. Research shows exposure to natural sensory experiences like the sound of running water or the smells of the forest reduce stress, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Key to exploring how nature makes us happy are the five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. Companies that create, or re-create, the sensations of nature for employees succeed in meeting the deepest human needs for beauty and harmony — including calm, relaxation, communion, comfort, predictability, stability and balance.
Let’s look at some examples:
Last fall L.L. Bean partnered with Industrious to launch the first-ever outdoor coworking space in urban parks around the country. Some have roofs, while some are open to the big blue yonder. They even created a handbook explaining the science behind their initiative, and a list of how-to’s for more inspiration.
As Kathryn Pratt, director of brand engagement at L.L. Bean, was quoted in a Slate.com article the goal is encouraging people to “integrate the outdoors into their workday, not just reserve it for after work or on the weekends.” She added: “Many different types of meetings can benefit from being in the outdoors, whether that’s creative brainstorming sessions or interviews (which we’re dubbing the outerview).”
Microsoft takes employee engagement to new heights, in the trees! Microsoft has a trio of on-campus treehouses built to amp up employee creativity and happiness by leveraging the power of being out in nature. In fact, the entire Microsoft campus is intentionally designed to be park-like, complete with wi-fi that gives employees the freedom to roam the grounds, weatherproof benches hiding power sources, and an indoor-outdoor cafeteria.
Says Shanon Bernstine, a business manager who helped plan Microsoft’s treehouse spaces:
“Being more creative and flexible with our workspace allows us to be more creative and productive in our work and the products we create.”
Amazon Seattle thinks outside the box — with pentagonal hexecontahedrons. It links its urban employees to nature with The Spheres, two greenhouse biodomes boasting more than 40,000 plants from dozens of countries. The indoor gardens — with glass facades to let in the most daylight possible — feature everything from living walls to a 50-foot tree. The goal? Creating a space where employees can think and work differently, inspiring innovation through connecting with nature.
Today’s takeaway: If you want to boost employee engagement, shore up employee retention, and see more creative, more focused, happier, healthier employees at work every day, tell your employees to take a hike!