Summer is fast approaching, and with it comes warm temperatures, growth, and fun. So, naturally, it’s time to talk about friluftsliv. You read that right: friluftsliv (free-loofts-liv). It’s a Norwegian word meaning “free air life” and is centered around the idea that it’s good for you to spend time outdoors—both body and soul. And as we’ll discuss, science agrees with this concept. Because not only does it improve general health, but it also helps improve work performance.
So, whether somebody goes camping or hikes to a mountain peak or merely takes regular walks around the local park, evidence abounds that this is a good thing. Granted, it can be tough sometimes to get out (especially during the cold seasons). So, now, while the weather is pleasant, take advantage of this opportunity to encourage friluftsliv among your people. It will lead to happier, better-performing employees. And if you don’t believe me, here are seven specific reasons your people should practice friluftsliv:
Increase concentration skills. Believe it or not, there’s something about wandering the great outdoors that helps us concentrate. Studies have found that kids who spend more time outside are less likely to have ADHD than kids who spend more time inside. So, perhaps the best way to encourage people to be present during work time is to encourage them to get out during their free time.
Stronger immune system. There’s something to be said about health issues taking people out of the office. And the worst culprits of this are sicknesses like the common colds or flus—two types of illnesses that go hand in hand with immune systems. Forest environments are strongly tied to improving our immune system. So again, to be present, tell them to get out.
Decrease stress. Spending time in trees decreases both heart rates and levels in cortisol, both of which are causes of stress. There are even certain flowers and other plants that increase relaxation and fight against depression and anxiety. A calm, stress-free employee is an employee who is in the right frame of mind to perform at work.
Improved happiness. Taking walks in nature (as opposed to urban areas) is linked to happier people. And since happy employees reach work goals 31 percent more often than unhappy employees, and since being happy is pretty much the coolest thing a person can be, this is kind of a big deal. If you’re dealing with morale issues, consider team outings in the great outdoors.
Better eye health. We all intuitively understand that it’s not good to stare at a computer screen all day (to say nothing of indoor, artificial light). It causes all kinds of sight issues, including nearsightedness. However, studies have found that making sure we spend ample time outside—where natural light lives—can combat the negative effects of artificial light.
Improved short-term memory. What if we told you the difference between an employee remembering the specifics of a meeting or not might depend on whether they’ve been to the forest recently or not? Studies have found that walking in forested areas improves short-term memory by around 20 percent. We’re not saying to hold meetings in the forest because that might be distracting, but you get the point.
Improved creativity. Spending time in the outdoors has proven to help with problem solving, to say nothing of the inspiration that comes from the beauty and aesthetic wonder of spending time in the great outdoors. And since any organization is only as good as its people are inspired to create quality work, it’s especially worthwhile in this case to think outside the box.
Whether you want to implement friluftsliv into your vernacular or not, you and your people will benefit from practicing it. Their physical and emotional well-being will be strengthened, and they’ll be better prepared to perform at work. So, why are you still staring at this computer screen? Get outside! (And don’t forget to bring your friends …)