The Case For Working From A Park Bench

Some entrepreneurs like to code at coffee shops; others expound on the benefits of coworking. But research shows that setting up shop on a park bench, of all places, may have the most benefits.

The Case For Working From A Park Bench

I’m sitting under a scrubby pine tree in the dappled winter sunshine,
watching traffic sail over the Williamsburg Bridge. Near me, an adorable black dog with an enormous shovel-shaped head and seemingly no legs is sniffing a clump of grass. A red and yellow ferry glides across the East River, and I see cranes topping the Freedom Tower in the distance. When I close my eyes, I hear a bird chirping, the rumble of boat engines, and the gentle flapping of a flag in the breeze. Quite a stiff breeze, actually…


F-ck this. It’s freezing. My bare fingers are curling into useless, aching little commas. But I still think you should work from a park bench occasionally, and here’s why:

1. Sunshine protects against mood disorders.
Up to 5 percent of the population in temperate regions suffers seasonal affective disorder in winter. A study of Danish (naturally) civil servants found that those who spent more than two hours a day working outside were less likely to have mood problems.

2. Being in nature improves creativity.
Need a new perspective on a knotty problem? Immersion in the wonders of nature could help. A recently published study found that backpackers returning from four to six days in the wilderness scored 50 percent higher on creative and problem-solving exercises compared to when they set out. Can’t get away for a week in the back country? See if your company has some unconventional “office space” outdoors, as LinkedIn’s hacker-in-residence Matthew Shoup discovered.

3. Moderate exercise improves cognitive performance.
To get this benefit, walk to the park, or walk around the park–for example, while on a conference call.

4. Dogs make you happier than coworkers.
Need some patience to talk a client off the ledge? Visit the dog run. A 2012 University of Minnesota study showed that even a 15-minute visit with dogs boosted happiness more than 15 minutes of socializing.

5. Poor air quality, acoustics, and insufficient ventilation in the average office affects your health, especially for those suffering from chronic conditions like asthma. Before you have to call in sick, get outside instead.


And here’s a bonus reason to work from a park bench as soon as the temperature climbs above 45 degrees. The new “six strikes” agreement threatens to make open Wi-Fi an endangered species, so get it while it’s still around.

Related: Why You Should Work From A Coffee Shop, Even When You Have An Office

[Image: Flickr user Hilde Skjølberg]

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.