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This one thing can break up the monotony of remote work

When given the permission to work remotely, maximizing an outdoor and natural space can transform your productivity.

This one thing can break up the monotony of remote work
[Photos: fermate/iStock; J U N E-1989/iStock]
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Approximately 5 million American workers worked remotely before COVID-19. These numbers quickly rose during the pandemic, and they haven’t slowed down. Global Workplace Analytics forecasts that 25% to 30% of the workforce will work remotely multiple days per week by the end of 2021. This means about one in four Americans would be able to enjoy the benefits of working from home.

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Up until now, I’ve been working remotely as a freelance writer for seven years. As someone who’s not new to working from home, I’ve come to realize that while this arrangement can be highly productive, it isn’t without its downsides. Sometimes remote working can be highly monotonous, which leads to a drop-off in efficiency, inspiration, and creative energy.

However, I’ve learned that taking work outside can be the simple shift in scenery that reboots one’s productivity.

Taking your work outside

Research shows that simply looking outdoors can help boost productivity. And this remarkable effect is compounded when you place yourself in an outdoor environment.

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And the benefits don’t end there. The presence of green, natural surroundings is proven to lower concentrations of cortisol in the brain, reduce heart rate and blood pressure, increase parasympathetic nerve activity, and decrease sympathetic nerve activity. Together, these sensations can lead to a feeling of relaxation.

It’s clear that working outdoors puts people in a much better mental and physical state to tackle tasks and accomplish deep work. So, with all these benefits, how do you set up a work space outdoors that’s both functional and comfortable? Speaking with Sacha Leclair, a longtime designer and founder of Canadian-based Leclair Decor, he told Fast Company the main things to consider when creating an outdoor work space are the same as any indoor work space: comfort, function, and focus.

To tie these three factors into your outdoor office setup, turn to these tips.

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Setting up your outdoor work space

While it would be ideal to have a small enclosed structure in which you could work outside, many of us don’t have the space or financial capacity for this option to be realistic.

Instead, start by choosing an outdoor spot away from noise. This is especially important  if you participate in online meetings or need to take phone calls. Seek out a shady spot to limit screen glare and reduce sun exposure. If no natural shade is available, consider installing an umbrella.

Don’t forget to factor in internet availability and proximity to a power source; both should be easily accessible to maintain the function of your outdoor space.

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Catering to comfort and function

Comfort is essential to productivity, so when I went to build out my own outdoor work space, finding comfortable seating was at the top of my priority list. In my case, Industry West’s Perth chair and this outdoor lounger from Article are two solid options that provide a perfect blend of both comfort and function.

When it comes to a desk setup, your ideal option depends on how you work best: Some people like having an outdoor standing desk, a lap desk, or a small table that functions as a worktop. For me, a small lap desk does the trick.

The main conceit is to not limit yourself. It’s your home office; you can set things up according to your individual needs.

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Fostering a conducive space

Being outdoors reduces stress and increases productivity, but sometimes the pull of nature can be too difficult to ignore. If you find yourself getting distracted, try incorporating some music into your outdoor work space. Researchers found test subjects were more productive when listening to songs pitched at 121 bpm. Music with an upbeat tempo can boost performance.

Personally, I enjoy listening to lo-fi music while working outdoors. I use a wireless, portable speaker by Sonos that I can easily take outdoors cord-free.

Where I live in the Midwest, my other biggest outdoor distraction comes in the form of mosquitoes and gnats, which can be outdoor-office nuisances. To keep them at bay, I use Thermacell’s portable bug repeller without having to use a distracting, highly scented bug spray.

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The benefits of fresh air and sunshine make working outdoors a revitalizing alternative that may be a worthwhile adoption for a remote worker. As our world becomes more open to remote work as a potentially long-term setup, it’s time to take advantage of the flexibility it provides. Experiment a bit and get your outdoor office set up so it’s functional, comfortable, and conducive to focused work. You may find that by working outdoors, you get more done.


Kaleigh Moore is a writer and consultant for companies in the SaaS industry.