May 30, 2015
By: Heather Lielmanis
The spring vibe here in Toronto this past week has been outstanding. The sun has been shining, the trees and flowers are in bloom and the weather has been hovering around a crisp 20 degrees, which, I am reminded every year at this time, is my favourite temperature. Yesterday, I just had to take a break from my work to go for a walk outside. Afterwards, I felt amazing! I was able to return to my computer with a renewed sense of focus and vigour. I had such a productive afternoon. I was compelled to find out why this simple act of getting outdoors had such a positive effect.
It turns out that spending time outdoors during the workday is good for us on so many levels.
A Break from the Screen
For many of us, a typical 8-hour work day involves sitting for long periods of time, looking into a computer screen. We are learning about the dangers of sitting, and are making great strides in encouraging people to incorporate movement into their workdays. Taking a break from the computer is another challenge altogether. While working on our computers is necessary to do our jobs, it can cause a strain on the eyes, the body and the brain. The Ontario Ministry of Labour recommends at least a 5-minute rest break from our computers each hour. However, taking a break from work by pulling out our phones to check our social media feeds doesn’t count. A change of scenery, ideally achieved by stepping outdoors, allows us to fully break away technology, and to be exposed to fresh air and natural light.
Fresh, Clean Air
Even if you’re working in the downtown core of a large city where you have to search for anything green, there is still benefit to escaping the office to spend some time outdoors. Many offices have windows that cannot be opened, requiring the indoor air to be purified and recycled. According to Surgically Clean Air, the air inside homes and offices can contain toxins, germs and even viruses. Poor air quality can cause headaches, make us feel drowsy, or even cause more serious health issues. This is certainly not good for productivity.
Investing in a medical-grade air purifier is one solution. Stepping outside for some fresh air is another. Fresh air helps to deliver more oxygen to the body, especially the brain. This comes with many benefits, including improved concentration, sharper thinking an increased energy. For these reasons alone, stepping outside for a few deep breaths will improve your workday tremendously.
Time Among the Trees
It’s not just the fresh air and natural light that makes us feel so good about being outside. Exposure to nature, including plants, trees and wildlife can also have a positive, restorative effect. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, being immersed in a natural setting can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress levels, and boost immunity. The outdoors provide so many opportunities for your senses to be stimulated. Consider how you feel upon experiencing these simple, wonders of nature:
Sometimes, being outdoors can just cause us to slow down for a moment to enjoy our surroundings. This moment of calm, and a brief respite from the pressures of the day may just be the break that we need to rejuvenate in order to get back on track. The ultimate goal of an efficient and productive workday will ensure our evenings and weekends are free… free to enjoy longer periods of time outdoors.
Heather Lielmanis is the VP of Business Development at Fitneff Inc. Fitneff is dedicated to providing innovative products and solutions that help busy people make their productive time more active. Fitneff offers a full suite of walking desks, sit-stand desks and active accessories that allow you to incorporate movement into your work day.
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Today, on International Women’s Day, I have chosen to profile Laurel Walzak, the female co-founder of Fitneff Inc. Laurel has been successful in so many areas of her career - first as a trailblazer in the sports business industry, then as an entrepreneur and most recently as an Assistant Professor of Sports Media at Ryerson University.
Laurel also spends a great deal of her time and energy outside the office in efforts to advance the careers of young women who are making their start. I asked Laurel some important questions about the role of women in business, and the role that she plays in advocating for other women in her life.