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A regular, 10-minute outdoor break dramatically reduces stress and boosts employee engagement and productivity.

Exposure to the outdoors is the antidote to a major workplace health epidemic: stress. Stress’s effect on the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems is so profound that the Center for Disease Control considers stress reduction essential to creating healthier, safer workplaces.

While the causes of workplace stress are highly individual – a last-minute deadline, a disagreement with a co-worker, a difficult client – the solution may be universal. Sunshine and fresh air help the mind and body “reset” during a stressful work day. Even better? Just 10 minutes spent in outdoor workspace can do the trick.

What Your Company Needs to Consider

To make sure your employees are reaping the benefits of time outdoors, consider these three factors:
  1. Access: Is outdoor space available, with both seating and room to engage in physical activity?
  2. Precedent: Is your company’s leadership creating a culture that encourages outdoor breaks by engaging in breaks themselves?
  3. Scheduling: Is your company creating the opportunity for outdoor time in the form of meetings, events, lunches or recreational activities?

What’s at Stake

Some stress-related ailments are seemingly minor but can have a significant impact on employee productivity. For example, 62 percent of employees end the day with work-related neck pain while a third struggle to sleep, according to a Harris Interactive poll. Other ailments are serious and even life-threatening, including an increased risk for heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, depression and chronic health problems.

Why Time Outside Matters

Dozens of recent studies demonstrate the health benefits of time outdoors but the most interesting finding for employers may be just how little time spent outside is required to get the benefits.

Erin Largo-Wight, an associate professor and program director at the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida examined the value of 10-minute breaks from work, comparing the impact of indoor breaks versus outdoor breaks. While any break can be beneficial, she found that spending time outdoors is dramatically more effective in reducing stress.

Another study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology showed that the time required to see benefits is as little as five minutes when combined with physical activity as light as walking.

To learn more about how outdoor access can boost engagement and employee wellness, read our report, “Workplace Wellness: a 360-Degree View.”

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