Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
13 Jun

How to Work Outside (Even If You’re a Desk Jockey)

Last week, I told you why working outside – at least from time to time – can be helpful, relaxing, and even performance-enhancing. A number of you emailed me directly, or left comments thanking me for the idea. Most people were on board with working outdoors, but mostly in theory, because let’s face it – being outside on a workday with the sun shining and the birds chirping and the breeze blowing sounds fantastic, but how realistic is it, really? Even if you’re able to convince your boss to let you take the work outside, or you find a job that gives you the freedom to work where you like, the logistics of seamlessly moving a traditionally-indoor activity to the outdoors just seem insurmountable. How are you gonna get Internet access? How will you read your emails through the glare of the sun?

Before I launch into the logistics of working outdoors, I wanted to emphasize a few of the benefits. In Biophilic Design, author Stephen Kellert notes that psychologists have aggregated the five basic requirements for office workers that, if neglected or missing, can trigger worker dissatisfaction and comprehension problems (PDF):

  1. Need for change (in temperature, air, scenery)
  2. Ability to interact with the physical environment (beyond drink from the water fountain, use the toilet, and open doors)
  3. Meaningful stimuli, lack of stagnant, unchanging environment (like a cubicle)
  4. One’s “own territory to provide safety, an identity, and protection”
  5. View of or access to the outside

At least 1, 2, 3, and 5 can be easily satisfied with more nature exposure. The outside world is always changing, the temperature is anything but constant, and you encounter extensive sensory stimuli. You can certainly interact with nature, by picking flowers, touching the grass, and that sort of thing, and being outside definitely gives us a nice view of the outside (since we’re in it). I don’t think it’s that nature is unique for giving us this stuff. It’s not that novelty is “good” for us. It’s that sameness is weird, alien, foreign. We may think we’re used to it, having lived with it for so long, but something ancient lurking deep inside us cries out in frustration and confusion when faced with an unchanging, non-stimulating, staid environment like an office. Or is it just me?

We need real nature, too. Technological nature such as plasma screens with images of rainforests and snow-capped mountains, orangutan screensavers (which I love – don’t get me wrong!), and nature soundtracks just aren’t the same. I think we know this instinctually, don’t we? They’re better than nothing, but they can’t really compare with the real thing. Unsurprisingly, the research suggests as much (PDF). In one recent 2008 study, people had access to either windows covered with curtains or high-definition plasma TVs (made to look like windows) depicting realistic nature scenes. Folks who saw the technological nature had improved psychological well-being, cognitive functioning, and “connection to the natural world,” while folks who saw the covered windows did not. Later, the same research group conducted another, similar study in which people either saw a real window revealing a real nature scene, a plasma depicting that same scene, or a blank wall. People who looked out the real window showed a better stress response, as indicated by a faster resumption of normal heart rate after exposure to mild stress.

With that out of the way, let’s move on, shall we?

Obviously, the people for whom this working outside stuff would be easiest to implement are the laptop jockeys, the mobile workers, and the writers. But one thing stands in their way: the lack of Internet access in places that are not bound by walls and routers. Save for the writers, whose only required references lie skullward, modern laptop workers generally need Internet access to get their work done. So, what can they do?

Find a green space with wifi access.

More and more public and state parks are making public wifi available to visitors. For example:

List of California state parks with wifi hotspots.

Austin downtown parks are getting wifi.

Current and future New York City parks with wifi.

A list of US parks with free wifi access.

I’m not sure how often it is updated, but this website appears to list many free public wifi hotspots available worldwide. Search for your area and see what you can find.

Extend your wifi range to encompass the backyard (or even more).

If you’re ambitious and relatively handy, do it yourself (tutorial number 1 and tutorial number 2). If you’re not, just buy a wifi range extender.

Other options include using router firmware that allows increased range, eliminating dead zones, and exploring these ten ways to boost your wifi signal.

Tether your laptop to your smartphone, or use a wireless card attachment.

Most smartphones have downloadable apps that allow you to tether your laptop to the phone and use it as an Internet hotspot. Or, you could buy an attachment for your laptop that allows wireless Internet access almost anywhere (with a fee, of course).

Okay, you’ve found a way to meld wifi and nature, you’ve got your laptop, and you even found a tree stump that can double as a standup workstation. You head out, coffee in hand, eager to get working and enjoy the sun, but when you plop down the laptop and flip it open to start the day’s agenda, you can’t see what you’re doing on the screen. The sun is shining, the glare is blinding. You’re effectively useless. What to do?

Find, or make, shade.

When working outdoors on a laptop, you’ll function best in the shade. The bright sun is, well, too bright. If you want to even be able to read text on a laptop in full sun, you’ll have to bump up the brightness, which will eat away at your battery life – and it won’t even be all that legible. Working outside is about reducing stress and promoting direct attention toward work-related tasks; straining with your eyes makes relaxed focus extremely hard to muster. Plus, blasting your laptop with open sun will only make it work that much harder to stay cool. If you value the length of your Macbook’s telomeres, you’ll want to stay in the shade.

Options:

You can buy a “laptop hood” that provides perpetual shade.

You can find some preexisting shade, like that from a tree.

You can bring along an umbrella. That’s what one of my Worker Bees does from home at his outdoor workstation, using a basic umbrella, a vase, and some rocks to weigh it all down. A beach umbrella stuck in the ground will also work well.

Get a laptop with a matte screen.

While glossy screens look nice in the store and indoors, they are terrible for outdoor work. Well, I suppose glossy laptop screens would work outdoors in a place like Seattle, but if there’s sun afoot? Matte, all the way.

Get an indoor/outdoor laptop.

A growing number of laptops are being made with dedicated outdoor modes. Look for models with “I/O” (indoor/outdoor), “Outdoor View,” or “Enhanced Outdoor” listed as a feature.

What if none of these options work for you? What if you can’t find a green space with reliable Internet access? Are you forever doomed to languish indoors?

No. “Working outdoors” doesn’t necessarily require total avoidance of any sign of civilization. You don’t have to climb Half Dome just to write some emails, nor must your shade be provided by a Joshua tree in the middle of Death Valley. You needn’t be remote, nor cut off from everything and everyone. You just need some fresh air.

This can take many forms, none of them extreme:

A standup workstation set up on your patio, like this commenter from last week (who is “already happier!”). Just being outside is good enough, but throw in some potted plants, a fruit tree, maybe some birds? Baby, you got yourself some green space!

Holding the next business meeting at the local public park, on a picnic table, instead of at a restaurant or in a board room at the business park.

Walking meetings, wherein you walk and talk and plan and brainstorm. Or, better yet, hiking meetings! Hey, if they were good enough for Aristotle and his students, walking meetings are good enough for the likes of you. There are numerous advantages to having walking or outdoor meetings, including:

  • Fewer distractions – Although I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary, most people won’t whip out their phone to check something if you’re walking and talking with them.
  • Greater concentrationWalking actually improves brain function, as you’re walking. Being outdoors while you do it? Even better.

What’s truly ironic – and extremely cool – about our increasing reliance on technology for essentially all aspects of work is that instead of preventing our communion with nature, they actually make it even more possible. Sure, most of us don’t get nearly enough nature access, we have to go look for it, and we like to blame work for our nature deficit, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Your boss may not be on board (yet), but unlike ever before in recent decades, we have the physical ability to take our work back to nature. No stacks of papers to be flung around by the wind, no landlines keeping us bound to our desks. The technology exists to allow us to work from almost anywhere at anytime. We live in an age of astounding possibility and potential, as of yet unrealized. If you have the freedom to make this possible, if nothing and no one is holding you back from taking your laptop outdoors, what are you waiting for? Give it a try. Refer your excuses to the lists above, and stop making them.

It doesn’t have to be every day, or even every other day. It might just mean you sneak out to the company garden for an extended break, or check your emails out in your backyard. I’m persuaded, based on the (albeit limited) research and my own experiences integrating the outdoors with my work, that adding any amount of nature exposure to your daily work life will be incredibly helpful. You may not see a massive performance boost, but you’ll be a bit less stressed. You may not be more productive, but you’ll enjoy your work more. And all that stuff matters.

Okay, that’s it for me, folks. Now it’s your turn. I want to hear what you’ve been able to accomplish. How have you melded work with nature, if at all? What roadblocks have you encountered, and how did you get around them?

Let us all know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Working at home, my view is a nearly all glass wall facing a beautiful (thanks to my housemate), lush patio. Good enough for me. No interest in working outside.

    Harry Mossman wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Lucky!

      Primal Toad wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • I have a view over the San Francisco Bay from my home office but it still doesn’t beat working outside *and* having the view from the deck at the same time. I need to get my brolly out!

        Alison wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • I feel like a complete moron in a way. Why the hell haven’t I taken the time to set up an area outside?

        My parents have a beautiful yard with tons of flowers, trees, plants. Squirrels, chipmunks, variety of birds, rabbits, our dog, butterflies…

        Only 3 more nights here in Grand Rapids, MI before I’m in Chicago for a week and then off to Olympia, WA – my new home for 9 months.

        Why? Why have I not been working outside?

        And here I am typing away upstairs in my bedroom.

        When I begin to “work” I’ll be outside today. I’ve had enough!

        Primal Toad wrote on June 14th, 2012
    • Being self-employed, I am able to work from home and frequently work on my front porch overlooking a yard full of trees and green plants that fill me with a deep sense of contentment and keep me relaxed. Happily, I am able to take breaks to walk my dogs by the lake in my town, so I can get in exercise as well as a daily hit of sunshine. Being able to work outside is such a blessing!

      Soozletew wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • You don’t get the smells that way.

      J wrote on June 18th, 2012
  2. I will attempt this on both days it doesn’t rain this year.

    (I live in the UK)

    Stevemid wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • hahahaha so true!

      Burn wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • My sympathies. I will be there next week for a month. I guess I’ll be needing my brolly there too, huh?

        Alison wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Yeah. I was going to comment about snow here – and sub-freezing (or sub-zero!) temperatures much of the year. But I am going to open my big window, since I do have a home office. I’ll have to see about that picnic table too.

      Great article, Mark.

      Amy wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Lol true.

      I live in the UK too.

      Onge wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Lol. I live in the desert

      Darlene wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Im with you on that one ! I live in N.Ireland so we might only have the one good day !

      mary wrote on June 14th, 2012
    • Lol, and here in Yukon, Canada, when it remains above freezing, doesn’t rain, and I’m not being sand-blasted by frigid northern wind- all two days- I will too. ;)

      I don’t work on a laptop all day, though. With five children all at home, there really aren’t any days, let alone minutes, when the environment is stagnant or unchanging. An unchanging environment sounds heavenly to me, but I guess either end of the spectrum can get a bit tedious at times. :)

      Imogen wrote on June 14th, 2012
  3. I work for my state government in lands and wildlife, but I don’t have the option to work outside while on the office campus (oh the irony!) However, on the rare occassions that I can work from home, I do so on my porch (I am very lucky to live in the mountains, so I am always around nature) or in my living room if there is bad weather looking out my six floor-to-ceiling windows on the field behind my home.

    Despite the fact that I can’t work outside at my office, we have a lovely gazebo and two ponds behind our building. It drives some of my older colleagues insane that I call meetings at the gazebo. I also have shunned having section get-togethers in the back room of our little office segment in favor of being out by the ponds. They are simply baffled by why I would rather be outside than in the office.

    Again, these are people who have dedicated their lives to an agency whose sole mission is to be the custodian of the lands and wildlife of our state.

    I envy one of my coworkers whose boss allows her to work from home 3 out of every 5 days, as she often sends me a photo of her on her back deck, overlooking the foothills, with her two big dogs laying at her feet. She is a mean, mean lady.

    Dev Adams wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I love it!

      Jenny wrote on June 13th, 2012
  4. I have zero excuses for NOT doing this NOW. I do love my stand up workstation but I can make my own outside. It’s as easy as placing something with the right height on a table. Or, why not start by sitting down for 30 minutes a day outside?

    I definitely need to start this habit. I hear its cloudy a lot in Olympia which is where I am moving to in 2 weeks.

    I absolutely need to do this. Now! I’ll report about my personal experiences on my Primal Toad blog and maybe I’ll start an MDA forum thread right away.

    Primal Toad wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Just checked out some of your smoothie recipes. Boy, do they look good!

      Brad wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • Oh just wait. The ones I have been making over the past 2 weeks have been out of this world!

        My ebook is on sale for $5 for just a few more days!

        Primal Toad wrote on June 14th, 2012
    • It is grey quite a bit here in the Pac NW, but when we have sunny days, it is absolutely beautiful! And, due to our mild summers, you can actually spend most of your time outside comfortably instead of having to be inside with air conditioning. I think you’ll enjoy it! Welcome to Washington!!!

      Krys wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • Thank you! I’m coming at the perfect time. July and August seem to be absolutely perfect. High’s in the mid to high 70’s, more sunshine and hardly any rain at all.

        I’m really looking forward to it.

        Jackson and I will be starting a Primal meetup group in Olympia so if you are ever in Olympia check to see if there is an event going on!

        Primal Toad wrote on June 14th, 2012
        • I’ve lived in the Pacific NW my whole live (Oregon, I’m in Portland now) and I can confirm that our Summers are absolutely beautiful. You may have to remind yourself that it’s worth it the other 9 months of the year, but for the next few months there will be plenty of sun.

          Tim W wrote on June 16th, 2012
  5. I love having meetings outdoors. I used to have a philosophy class outdoors while in university. I have to admit, it was difficult to concentrate when the squirrels were busy chasing each other up and down the trees. :-)

    I do spend as much time as possible outside while at work. It is instantly relaxing.

    Happycyclegirl wrote on June 13th, 2012
  6. I’m going to suggest a walking meeting for our weekly team meeting. We do not have a dependence on a projector, and we just look at one handout the whole time… This might be neat.

    Joy Beer wrote on June 13th, 2012
  7. Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but don’t comment often. I just had to tell you that I work in a room with no windows. Sounds nice right? I am always wandering off in search of sunlight. I often take my work with me to another building that has lots of seating surrounded by walls of windows. My coworkers can’t understand why I’m always disappearing. I can’t understand how they can stay in our building!
    ~Ang

    Angela @ The Chicken Scoop wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I’m in the same situation. My job is fine, the people are nice, but our office is in a warehouse and there are no windows! I end up taking 2-3 walks outside each day just get some sun in my eyes and some fresh air.

      Of course my walk involves a circuit around an ugly row of warehouses and a short loop down a railroad track full of homeless-people garbage, but hey, better than being inside!

      Uncephalized wrote on June 15th, 2012
  8. I have been wanting a better laptop screen so I could work outdoors for YEARS. A friend just sent me this link about new computer screen technology that works in the sun, and I did quite the happy dance:

    http://www.pixelqi.com/home

    Can’t wait until this kind of laptop screen becomes the norm (come on Apple, do it!) – working on the beach here I come.

    Nadine Schaeffer wrote on June 13th, 2012
  9. I work in an IT Department and we are constantly faced with meetings, phone calls and other distractions that don’t allow us to work uninterrupted for long periods of time. On a recent Wednesday where a large group of people were out of the office, I found myself more productive because I wasn’t interrupted. I suggested to my boss that we each get one “productivity day” a month that allows us to be “out of the office” (no meetings or phone calls) but working either from home or somewhere else free from distractions. He is completely on board with this, especially since he needs a few of these days himself.

    I think this goes well with working outside and I’ll have to try it on my next Productivity Day.

    Jeanine wrote on June 13th, 2012
  10. Matte screens are amazing. I got one on my new laptop so I could work outside and the difference is night and day.

    Pat wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I’ve been dying to do this for ages. Frustratingly, my ancient laptop is not having any of it, as demonstrated by its sudden death upon unplugging the power cable! So once I get my new netbook complete with matte screen, I shall be out enjoying my work in the Spanish sunshine! However, my need for a static IP address will always be a bit of a tether for me… meh!

      Sarah wrote on June 13th, 2012
  11. Crazy. Just today I said to heck with the library and i’m studying in my back yard only to see this article posted. I’m feelin’ ya, Mark

    Michael wrote on June 13th, 2012
  12. I clearly need a matte screen and a large umbrella. To position myself with a good view (ideal) the sun is behind me most of the day and it causes my screen to be unreadable but with some of these ideas I think I can make it work. Thanks!

    Alison wrote on June 13th, 2012
  13. Wow! You guys are lucky people! You know, I am the recepcionist in my company, so I in fact, can NEVER leave, I have to stay here to receive guests and answer the phone. Anyone has any idea in how to improve my place of work? I started thinking in at least a potted plant, but in the end the damned white light that shines over me all day keeps hurting my eyes. I wish I could go out, but it’s way too hard to me since I don’t know when the next call will be. Only when I go to eat I go outside, but I work in Mexico City, here everything is sadly urbanized and the nearest park is almost a 30 minute walk and I just have an hour to eat. Any suggestions, welcome, because this is a hard thing to change and obviously I’m not really happy or comfortable at all.

    Monica wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Hi Monica,

      Lots of potted plants, and maybe an aquarium if that is allowed. The ambient motion of the fish can be soothing. It’d be neat if you could make the reception area a mini rain forest :)

      best of luck!

      Michele wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • Also, do some research into toxin-reducing plants. My work office includes a copier and two laser jet printers, all of which off-gas the most horrid toxins into the air. There are plants that do an excellent job cleaning the air that I keep next to these big machines.

        Mamachibi wrote on June 14th, 2012
    • The potted plant idea is good. For lighting, see if you can get “full spectrum” lights installed to give you a true “sun-like” experience. (I’m not sure if they also emit beneficial UV rays, but it’s at least better than most standard lighting.) Look into a wireless headset for answering the phone so that you can at least move, if not step outside for a moment. Ask your boss if you can use a Pilates ball rather than a desk chair so that your body mechanics are forced to change – or if you don’t have walk-in customers to deal with, see if you can install a treadmill standup workstation so you can walk while working. If you’re behind a desk, kick off your shoes. Bring in dried aromatic plants that you can smell ocassionally. (I like sage, rosemary, lavender, etc., and I keep them in a decorative sea shell on the corner of the desk.) Make sure your desk and computer are turned in a direction that gives you the most window view possible while you work. Color your workspace with natural colors by painting the walls or putting up decorations made with natural materials. If you do the “barefoot under the desk thing”, see if you can put a couple of trays of natural materials under the desk to rest your feet on: rounded rocks, sand, even a tray of Irish moss that you keep watered and green. Leave the front door open to allow natural breezes to enter. That’s all I can think of for now.

      Dan wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • I LOVE all these ideas, frankly its making me a bit depressed as I look around at my grey colored cubicle walls. and grey colored desk. I need to spruce it up because im not enjoying being here as much as I would like to! I will implement the plant idea – maybe I can cover my walls with color cloth? I dont want to seem like a crazy person in the office- but I do believe in these psychlogical effects!!!!!!

        Marwa wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I like using himalayan salt lamps around my desk. They add a peaceful, natural touch. A desk lamp with a full spectrum light bulb can also make a huge difference. Small fish tank; lots of potted plants; natural minerals, rocks, seashells; small plug in, desktop bubbling water fountain; framed pictures or posters of beautiful natural landscapes; a very low volume natural soundscape music,(some are scientifically designed to support calm alert mental states and a few are superimposed on classical music. I also like to frame changing quotes and affirmations that inspire me to be in centered, calm, positive, etc at work. Good luck!

      Mirabelle wrote on June 14th, 2012
    • I recently got permission to replace the florecent lights with Florecent UV lights which I obtained from our local pet store. I have a nice office, however no outside windows. It has really helped as I have many plants now and they are doing fine. I believe the lights help me as well. I also have fresh flowers on my desk at all times

      Lelani wrote on June 14th, 2012
  14. Totally unable to move my set-up outside. I cannot use a laptop (it’s not available to me in any case and we do not have wifi) as I am unable to get to the database (library catalog) I work in except through my PC. Even if I could there is no way I could move the many boxes of books outside anyway, but thanks for the ideas.

    Lynna wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I’m in the same boat- work in an office that requires me to be IN the office. But I’ve made accommodations by eating at my desk so I can have a whole hour to walk in the park during lunch, and I take frequent breaks to peruse the stacks throughout the library.

      One day, though, it will be an outdoor office for me for sure!

      The Jaded NYer wrote on June 13th, 2012
  15. Working outside as I type this. On the deck at home, telecommuting, great tips for screen brightness, etc. Stocking up on vitamin D while it lasts in NE USA

    Aya wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I am assuming NE is Nebraska? If so, where at? I’m looking for another Primal for ideas in NE.

      Aimee wrote on June 13th, 2012
  16. I don’t have a lot of flexibility with respect to work location but I try to take conference calls on my mobile and walk outside.

    SteveD wrote on June 13th, 2012
  17. If a person greatly values working outside more than inside, then one would naturally pursue an occupation that provides that.

    Working outside is not all sunshine and lollipops: snow, rain, freezing rain, strong winds, bugs, etc.

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • word. sometimes we must change what we want to get what we need.

      yoolieboolie wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • How true! I worked in the “out-of-doors” and found there are truly only two nice days per year.

      skeedaddy wrote on June 13th, 2012
  18. Those of us who working in retail, service, restaurants, etc. are not afforded these options. And we are legion!

    Holly wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Real plants are the answer to any workspace if you can not go outside. they provide fresh air and beauty at the same time. Get together with your boss and see about it. Retail offices look 100% better with real live plants. You will sell more, people will eat more and you will be happier

      Lelani wrote on June 14th, 2012
  19. I am one of the lucky few: I work remotely from home, and only have to go into an office once a month or so. I live in Seattle, so I can’t always work outside. But when it’s nice, I spend as much time as I possibly can outdoors in my backyard, working or writing or reading. Amazing how refreshed I feel at the end of the day when I get to be outside all day. I figured that was just me — but no! Science backs me up. Thanks Mark!

    Rozska wrote on June 13th, 2012
  20. I’m lucky enough to be a desk jockey working at home. I had to have an office in the basement for a few years, but my daughter is now old enough to move to the basement. It’s made such a difference being able to see daylight and the trees outside. Great suggestion to go outside. It’s a beautiful day here & I just moved my laptop out to my deck. Unfortunately, I live in the burbs and can hear chainsaws and the highway nearby. I hope the skeeters don’t find me.

    wendy wrote on June 13th, 2012
  21. Sounds like fun!

    Nikhil Hogan wrote on June 13th, 2012
  22. I’m a molecular biologist, so I’m stuck in my lab, but I have good windows and lots of plants. I try to make a point of walking outside rather than through the tunnels that connect many of our laboratory buildings (unless I’m transporting samples).

    After quitting smoking 7 years ago, I realized I missed the outdoor breaks (whatever the weather), so now I try to remember to take “non-smoke breaks” to get some fresh air.

    ajt wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Yeah, I work in a lab, too. I quit a lab that was underground with NO windows, and work in two labs with large windows, and can see that the people I work with now are nicer than the ones that I worked with in the job that I quit!

      Yvette wrote on June 14th, 2012
  23. I like working at cafes that have covered balcony. I like working outdoors in an aerial position. Right now, my favorite cafes is on the second floor and has a balcony overlooking a busy pedestrian only shopping street. The hustle and bustle below keeps me both energized and relaxed at the same time. When travelling i like to stay on the top floor of hotels and preferably in rooms with a balcony.

    Brad wrote on June 13th, 2012
  24. I work from home as a blogger, and I often find myself writing in my dining room with its 3 windows and a view of my garden rather than the office. In the morning, the sun shines in the office window which I need to block.

    I’d love to work out on my back porch which is shaded, though glare is an issue. I’ve been meaning to find out if I could put something on my laptop screen to reduce the glare.

    Barb @ A Life in Balance wrote on June 13th, 2012
  25. How ironic! Right before lunch and thus checking this site, I had the urge to work outside since it is such a gorgeous day. I don’t have any patio furniture (or a patio for that matter) but I do have stuff for the beach. So out came the beach umbrella and ties, as well as my folding beach chair! Viola! Outdoor office!

    Now…if only I had an outlet in the backyard for when my laptop battery dies.

    Christine wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Run a power line from somewhere…. anywhere!

      Lynn wrote on June 13th, 2012
  26. Unfortunately I live in an apartment with no patio or yard. I also live in PDX and its seems to be always raining (imagine that!) I do have somewhat of a view outside my window where I work but I know its not the same. Because of security issues, I have to keep my work out of the public (no WiFi hotspots here).

    At least I’m lucky enough to have work and work from home – at this point in my life, this is probably as good as it gets.

    Carla wrote on June 13th, 2012
  27. This points out the conflicts in office-building design: the most energy-efficient office building would be spherical with no windows, while the most human-friendly would be having all offices at the outside, each with a view and a small balcony for plants, etc and fresh-air access.

    BillP wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Actually the most efficient design thermally would be a rectangular plan elongated to the south, with adequate shading for summer sun and plenty of windows; good design would take advantage of those windows for natural daylighting (since a windowless box or sphere would need tons of artificial light). And economically, happier employees work better, get sick less, have less turnover etc., so the larger the building, the bigger effect of the bottom line. In the Biophilia movie, the architects of the Bank of America Tower talk about how much money they saved the bank by making a more humane environment for the workers. Kind of like Primal eating–pays dividends in lots of ways.

      Tom Bassett-Dilley wrote on June 13th, 2012
  28. I enjoy taking my laptop out and about. A while back, when I was working on a personal writing project, I bought a small 10 inch netbook with a matte screen (so I could see what I was writing) to tote around in my purse. Many times, I brought lunch to work and found a nice spot outside the office to write afterwards. It was really refreshing and I was relaxed once my lunch hour was over.

    Now, that I’m heavily blogging about my low-carb experiences, I enjoy sitting outside in my backyard or on the steps of my front porch and type away. I don’t want to waste all my time cubed into my house, especially since the weather is still gorgeous in Colorado this time of year.

    Most of my current projects are not internet dependent, so I can do my work in a park and just post my blogs or send my updated book manuscript to myself once I have wifi again. Love it!

    Nickie wrote on June 13th, 2012
  29. I’m so happy to see the Stephen Kellert study mentioned since I posted that link last week–did I give back to my Primal community at last?!

    Another thing to think about, those who work from home or can influence their office environment, is to create in-between zones: I design a lot of screened porches into my house projects so people can enjoy dinners, work, workouts, whatever, in a bug-free zone in the garden. Here in Chicago, mosquitoes aren’t fun, though the lightning bugs are (just came out last week).

    Also love the idea of “non-smoking” breaks–it’s so ironic that you see all the smokers on the sidewalk downtown, enjoying the weather at least 3-4 times per day (could add up to an hour)… probably something everyone should do for health, at a minimum!

    Tom Bassett-Dilley wrote on June 13th, 2012
  30. Pity the poor defense workers who either work in a building without windows or are forbidden to touch the blinds for fear of eavesdropping.

    Gail wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • I used to work for a govt subcontractor in a building with no windows, tight security and no sound but the hum of fluorescent lights. It was horrible and I plotted my escape hourly. Now I work outside all year round. I went INSIDE for my lunch break today and tried to soak up as much AC as possible. Gotta get back out there now.

      Kate wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Hopefully the U.S. gummint will follow the UK’s lead and have their next set of intelligence buildings designed like GCHQ … no need to bury the buildings or design them windowless.

      http://www.gchq.gov.uk/AboutUs/Pages/GCHQ—a-Look-Inside.aspx

      Angel wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • One might be tempted to make a snarky comment about tyranny being the wages of working for tyrants…

      Uncephalized wrote on June 15th, 2012
  31. Boss doesn’t allow it. :(

    James wrote on June 13th, 2012
    • Also, kind of hard to take our office phones outside.

      James wrote on June 13th, 2012
      • At least take your lunch and breaks outside :)

        Mark Cruden wrote on June 13th, 2012
  32. I have recently gotten the opportunity to do some apprentice-level surveying, which has not been part of my normal job before now. That’s a great way to get outside, and often involves some interesting, even challenging, terrain. The fly in the vaseline is that our lead surveyor is something of a casual racist (not white-sheet, but slur-using), so I don’t much look forward to working with him. It looks, though, like I’m going to have a chance to go out to do a topo survey next week, which I can do on my own.

    Eric Schmitz wrote on June 13th, 2012
  33. I used to treat patients all day in a dental office. While I had a window, I still longed to get outside. Because I live in coastal Texas, it is improbable to take lunch outside due to heat and perspiration. I decided to do everything within my power to spend every minute of my day not required to be inside, outside. I starting staying outside when I got off work and taking two long walks or bike rides a day. If I could not go camping at 1-2 times a month, I would camp out in my back yard at home. Hey… I didn’t have to pack kitchen stuff. I built a campfire pit, made a tent pad type of area and regularly used it! It really helped and was kinda fun going to work Monday mornings from the campsite. Having moved and changed jobs to work from home, I am recreating my outside time a bit.

    Lynn wrote on June 13th, 2012
  34. I’m largely self employed and used to use a desktop until my dad came down with cancer 10 years ago. I ended up having to spend time with him going to and from the doctors so I switched to a laptop to do my bookkeeping on. When I realized I could work from anywhere using a laptop I never went back to the desktop. Even though I still spend most of my days in the office I’ve already worked while sitting on a riverbank and while sitting in a deer blind. And I am more productive working this way.

    Scott wrote on June 13th, 2012
  35. I wish I could work outside, but I just don’t see how I could do it. I travel for work, so most of my time is spent on a plane, in and out of hotels, and setting up shop at a client with my laptop on a table. I do try to spend time outside in the evenings and locate walking trails and things in whatever city I am in, but that seems to be the extent. And for a while now, I have been in Seattle, so I haven’t even been able to enjoy the outdoors due to the lovely “Seattle Sunshine” aka rain. Great article though!

    Karissa wrote on June 13th, 2012
  36. Someone may already have mentioned it, but I read in the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs that he loved to conduct meetings while walking. (He was also a fruitarian, but that’s another story…) Seems to have worked for him, so it could work for us, too.

    Gydle wrote on June 13th, 2012
  37. Only some writers need just their skulls for reference. Others need to consult technical staff, company databases, and remote co-workers who live on the other side of the planet on conference calls — at night. Also, some of us have to do their best to blend in with a company’s culture.

    jake3_14 wrote on June 13th, 2012
  38. I’ve been watching Mad Men on my MacBook Pro on the patio, does that count?

    Jenny wrote on June 13th, 2012
  39. I am outside every day. I have my own farm and it is outside. Sometimes I want to be in when it is raining or snowing, but other times it is just fine.
    And, now believe it or not we have WIFI all over country… So if needed can check my e-mails in every place I want.

    Diana wrote on June 13th, 2012
  40. But…6 months of the year it’s too damn cold to work outside in Canada >_<

    Nionvox wrote on June 13th, 2012

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