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.


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!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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124 thoughts on “How to Work Outside (Even If You’re a Desk Jockey)”

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  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.

      1. 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!

      2. 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!

    1. 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!

  2. I will attempt this on both days it doesn’t rain this year.

    (I live in the UK)

      1. My sympathies. I will be there next week for a month. I guess I’ll be needing my brolly there too, huh?

    1. 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.

    2. Im with you on that one ! I live in N.Ireland so we might only have the one good day !

    3. 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. 🙂

  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.

  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.

      1. 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!

    1. 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!!!

      1. 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!

        1. 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.

  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.

  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.

  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!

    1. 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!

  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:

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

  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.

  10. Matte screens are amazing. I got one on my new laptop so I could work outside and the difference is night and day.

    1. 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!

  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

  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!

  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.

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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!!!!!!

    3. 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!

    4. 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

  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.

    1. 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!

  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

    1. I am assuming NE is Nebraska? If so, where at? I’m looking for another Primal for ideas in NE.

  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.

  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.

    1. word. sometimes we must change what we want to get what we need.

    2. How true! I worked in the “out-of-doors” and found there are truly only two nice days per year.

  18. Those of us who working in retail, service, restaurants, etc. are not afforded these options. And we are legion!

    1. 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

  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!

  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.

  21. 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.

    1. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

    1. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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!

  29. Pity the poor defense workers who either work in a building without windows or are forbidden to touch the blinds for fear of eavesdropping.

    1. 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.

    2. One might be tempted to make a snarky comment about tyranny being the wages of working for tyrants…

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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!

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. I’ve been watching Mad Men on my MacBook Pro on the patio, does that count?

  37. 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.

  38. I get to move – sprint actually – between our four buildings every day whilst avoiding the local sabre tooth tigers. We have them in the UK honest…..

    Also lucky enough to work occasionally from home on the decking,, if its not raining.

  39. Outside is where it all comes from…so go there..I spend more time out than in…GROK ON>>>

  40. I have been concerned that if I sat outside on my covered, screened in patio (I work from home) that I would not concentrate. Actually, the opposite is true. While sitting inside, I was feeling sorry for myself for not enjoying the beautiful outdoors (for today, anyway as tomorrow will be 90+ and very humid). I am now moved outside and finding my concentration is actually better as I am no longer thinking about the great outdoors–I am experiencing it. I am so blessed. My lavender is drying on a table about 4 feet from me so that makes it quite relaxing also!

  41. Great advice if you want to suffer hypothermia in England for 9 months of the year.

  42. Unfortunately, I can’t go outside, but I’ve started reading my e-mail and other communiques standing up, and it’s really upped my energy level and focus!

  43. I have worked from my home for about twenty years. Living where you work has benefits and detriments. The benefits are I can walk out of my office door and putter around the garden or lay in the sun for a few minutes. Since my children are home schooled I can take a few minutes to ride our bikes down to the end of the street and back or throw a ball around the yard.

    If the idea of working for yourself has any appeal, self-employment can be a wonderful option for some.

  44. I’d love to work outside, but it’s about 106+ outside right now. I think the heat would negate any of the benefits Mark is talking about. Perhaps when October rolls around. . .

  45. Just skimmed all the comments to see if there was a quick way to agree with the comments on radiation and cell/DNA damage that wi-fi and mobiles inflict. Not one (so far).
    Really surprised at this. I thought at least some of you would say, ‘Hey but Mark, what about all the crazy, dodgy vibes coming at us from this heretofore untested technology? Our DNA gets enough crud from our screens plugged in to the wall to say nothing of the so-called genius of wi-fi…’
    Here in Australia we had a hell of a time getting a landline phone and landline internet, which -if I hadn’t done the research in the first place- probably would have tipped me off, investigating effects. (Call me paranoid.) (‘Suspicious’ is fine too.) They charge more for old-school connections too. I personally resent wireless technology for the extra radiation.
    All this vented, my husband says if I didn’t know about it it probably wouldn’t hurt me. I eat primally, lots of miso and seaweed to counteract it, but even cell phone towers piss me off, and apparently cleaner-living people than us in third world countries see fit to pull them down rather than suffer headaches and other unseen damages.
    Just sayin’. May be worth a closer look on this subject. Even if it’s just by new mothers/to be.
    Grok on wid yo’bad’as’selves.

    1. Hi Ma Flintstone,

      It’s funny I was thinking the same thing. Not many people in North American know about the dangers of Wi-Fi and their relatives. Most of the information I can get comes out of Europe. Of course, Dr George Carlos has been talking about the dangers, especially for children, for over a decade now.

      I haven’t used microwaves or cell phones for years. Smart meters are coming to my city and I started looking into the technology. After doing so, we decided to hard-wired all our technology in our home and office. Here more about this issue:

    2. Some research suggests that skin contact with the earth electromagnetically grounds our bodies and significantly helps with some of the damage from EMF’s. When using my laptop or mobiile devices outside i try to sit or stand barefoot on the grass or (clean)soil.

    3. I’m aiming to buy and set up a screened in collapsible gazeebo (they are cheap at home depot)on my back lawn and work there barefooted.

  46. I think office buildings should be constructed to include “parks & gardens”…..on balconies or roof tops or courtyards etc. Buildings should be open……and if people were working in healthier work spaces they wouldn’t want to jump off them.

    Our hospital here is wrapped around a garden with a pond which is viewed when walking the corridors or sitting areas….lovely….

  47. I can’t believe this never occurred to me.  I can’t do it for large chunks of my day, but I have the perfect place for this – a shady overhang, fairly private, right outside my office, and should be able to manage a few work periods a week out there once I set up a chair.. Brilliant!

  48. I work from home everyday, IT work. My “office” is wherever I park my butt and my laptop. Some days its on our screened in porch out back. Some days its on our front patio. Once in awhile I go with my wife and kids to our community pool that installed wifi a few years ago.
    I am lucky that I got this work from home gig a few years ago, I hope it never goes away.

  49. Thank you for reminding me, after a tough few days, of one of the best things about staying home with my kids. I “work” outside nearly every day, lift heavy things (55# Thing 1 and 35# Thing 2. This week lifting one off the other…), sprint, climb and goof around. I know I will miss it when I’m back in an office in a few years.

  50. I roll an office chair outside and sit in the partial shade for an hour or so until it gets too hot and sweaty. I’m lucky to work for a very small company who embraces my quirks, though. Madame President even suggests handstands and cartwheels to help wake everyone up when she’s getting too droopy!

  51. I totally agree that people need to be outside as much as possible, but I notice the emphasis on outdoor wifi in order to work outside. I know wifi is the most convenient option, but I am not convinced that wifi is benign. I think it’s prudent (dare I say — primal) to limit exposure to it. What do y’all think? Do you think there is any chance that wifi is harmful? This is one of my lecturers from my undergrad environmental science class:
    I’d be interested to hear what you peeps think.

  52. Love these excellent ideas! I live ‘a cheat’ because I live in a forrest on a 4 acre lake. To make sure that I do get outside enough I volunteer to crew my friend’s hot air balloon as often as possible (several times a month- sometimes ‘a week’); lots of super fun exercise. Also to keep rigorously stretching/moving: taken on keeping the lake and surrounding walking trails in good shape & free of limbs, debris, etc. Big job = fun movement. Later in summer is full of firewood cutting & bucking.
    All above perfect for a Paleo Princess! Starting a new career & have a wifi extender to work/study outside while weather is nice.
    Come visit us in Mt Shasta, CA!

  53. this is all well and good the USA where there are lovely open spaces and parks, lots of warm dry weather and opportunities but here in the UK we have constant rain, wind and cold weather, especially in the summer!! could we all move to the USA and enjoy this with you Mark?!

  54. Today’s the first morning you may take a walk outside without wearing a diver’s suit. 🙂 I will consider to work on the green, when thundery clouds vanish. Primal greetings from Munich, Germany. Thorsten

  55. My husband and I (70 and 65 years young) live in Crete and have our own property management business. We work outside in rain, wind and sunshine 24/7, eat like Grok, feel great and take our office in our pockets in our iPhones. Life is very good – thank you Mark!

  56. I am lucky. I live in the country in India and my house backs up to a huge field. I have huge doors that are open all the times. I get a wonderful breeze most days and lots of sunlight. My view is that field and it changes all day with cows coming and going.

  57. I work in a lab in which we fought to have a windo installed! But rain or shine or cold or heat I always skip lunch and run the hills, walk, or just get out of the office for fresh air– the afternoon is better because I am energized!

  58. Well… in Sweden the sun is that much of problem while working outside, it’s mostly the heavy rain, snow, wind… really unpleasant being outside in general. But to go out to a café or sit in the window is a great improvement I guess… or just move to CA <3

  59. Working outside is all well and good. But if you need power and also need WIFI which is deadly for your health, then your just defeating the objective. Eat well and then get electrocuted or brain health problems from the Electro magnetic radiation from the wifi! Not a great idea.

  60. I am not so sure Wi-fi is safe. There is growing evidence that exposrue to this electronic smog/emf exposure is not healthy for us. Certainly grok did not have it in hisvenvronment. I go outdoors to be away from all that stuff. (Although I realize that is increasingly hard to do, especially in an urban environment where radiofrequencies from cell phones, towers, wireless is EVERYWHERE! Maybe the precautionary principle should be applied here. So if not necessary to be online constantly, then use your computer with wireless connection disabled and turn it on only when needed.

  61. I wonder how much the benefits of being outside are a total sensory experience. If a window is not enough, then is it the noise of the outdoors? Is it the feel of the wind and breeze? Can a blind or deaf person receive as much benefit as someone with both faculties?

  62. I take it if I worked for you, You would zero issues with letting me take it to the streets :P…Haven’t had a chance to read the article, but hoping that somewhere in there there might be a letter I can pass off to my boss as valid reason for getting outside and not getting fired…for now, I’ll just be happy with the standing workstation and big sunny window.

  63. I work from home and my desk is right in front of windows facing the yard. But I could take my laptop out on the porch, don’t know why I never considered it!

    I had a very stressed-out, short-tempered boss some years ago. When he wanted to talk to me, I used to try to get him to walk around the block while we talked. It made the conversations at least somewhat less hair-raising.

  64. I try and hold most of my business meetings while walking, going for a jog or cycling (all outside)…much more fun than a cubicle.
    It helps that my business is health promotion, but I find that most of my colleagues are quite excited at the prospect of having a meeting while moving

  65. I don’t know if anyone has written this yet, but is nobody concerned about the effect of all that high tech pollution in our outdoor spaces? I just mean that going to a park and seeing (and feeling) towers and people spread out on the green with their laptops open, clicking away, is not inspiring. I don’t imagine the environment would then be less confining and stagnant than the office.

    If the idea was to leave the laptop at the office and throw a ball around all afternoon…

  66. I recently moved to Austin, and I didn’t realize they were expanding free wi-fi access into downtown parks. I think that’s a fantastic idea and I hope the trend spreads throughout the country.

  67. When I was writing my Master’s dissertation, I moved down to the south of France (I was studying in London, England). I rented a tiny little room in a tiny little town, but the building had a beautiful rooftop patio I could use. I wrote my dissertation sitting on that rooftop patio, shaded, but sweating in the heat for sure, and totally enjoying life. I would write for a few hours, then pack up and go for a hike in the evening. It was such a wonderful way to work.

    I work in an office now with no outdoor space, and no where really to go to sit outdoors. I wish I could work from home sitting in my backyard.

  68. Ya! Outside in the HAARP environment where you can count the “Chem-Trails”. Sounds just great!

  69. In addition to using high brightness, you can also use a high contrast scheme ( I use the ‘High Contrast White’ scheme in Windows 7) to improve the ability to use your screen in the sun.

  70. I go outside my apt onto my balcony ( I literally have a oasis out there!a pot garden of veggies and flowers) and work on projects for my etsy shop: jewelry- knit/crochet items… I also have a nice view of a forested area across the street- it is very peaceful and serene. I have a cat so I like this option best so she can sit on my lap or near me as I work 🙂 she is good company!

  71. I love the idea of an outdoor desk with shade, but find the practicalities of shifting my laptop/power/keyboard setup to be off-putting, unless it’s going to be for an extended period. I really dislike working on a laptop without a separate keyboard as I can’t have both the screen and keyboard at the right height. And then my back/shoulders and arms all suffer.
    I guess as equipment gets lighter and more mobile this will become easier.

    On another point, I’m inspired to suggest outdoor meetings to my colleagues, even though we are in a fairly cool winter period right now 🙂

    I’m fortunate to have my day job office situated in lovely bushland with ponds and loads if wildlife. Even a quick meeting outside would be refreshing. Thanks for the suggestion!

  72. I work in my studio most days but at least once a month and then the entire summer we leave Texas and live/work from my mobile office (rebuilt 1958 Airstream trailer) seen here. We spend most of our time in the summer in Colorado, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington staying out of the heat and being outdoors with our 3 sons. I am a graphic designer and I find I do my best work when I am outdoors more. Seeing more. Processing more new things. I work many days just from a lawn chair in from of our trailer. Most state and national parks have WIFI, and I also have a verizon MIFI mobile air card that works great. Some pics from one of our trips here that show some of my mobile worksports like tent on beach, etc

  73. Hey! Just wanted to say I just found this great site that sells anti-glare films for your laptop! Yay!! The name of the site is I ordered the Maxi Anti Glare film, cuts glare by 85%! They have hundreds of laptop models listed for a good fit – found mine =)
    I will let yall know how well it works!

  74. The majority of my work time is outside. I am my own boss and detail (clean) cars, trucks, boats, bikes etc for a living….. Can’t sit behind a desk for long, it drives me nuts!!

  75. I thought of this idea even before Mark started writing about it! The timing of this post is very cool too, confirming something I had already been experimenting with.

    I started working outside on my building’s back patio around the beginning of May, or here in Portland, the first few really nice days of the year in the early to mid spring. I took advantage of a warm sprint and spent like 3-4 days working 3/4 of the time outside and worked up a nice little tan in the process as well.

    I’m lucky enough to have a back patio in the building where I work that gets great sun access, plus having ample wireless signals, both from inside the building and nearby free business hotspots, so internet access isn’t a problem.

    After being told I was not allowed to sunbathe out back (mainly due to the lack of a shirt) I decided to seek out other places to get my outside work fix. I found a wonderful little green space that is a block away that is actually the space of land that is bounded by an off-ramp from a highway. Surprisingly, the hum of traffic doesn’t bother you when sitting there since the nature around you really engulfs you more!

    There’s a great wi-fi signal even in this “off-ramp park” as I call it, so I go there often with my reed mat to kick back and do some work, getting my vitamin D and my nature for the day. Plus there’s a great tree that provides good shade for when either me or my computer needs a break.


    Erik in Portland

  76. I work in a room with no windows. I take X-rays and ultrasounds. Due to radiation and patient privacy we need to have an enclosed room. I’m always asking patients about the weather. We’re lucky if we get a ten minute break somedays for lunch. Not much chance of bringing my work outside. Just have to try hard in non work hours

  77. Compared to the tales of windowless rooms etc I feel incredibly lucky. I work in horticulture so I’m outside 40+ hours a week and constantly moving through winter, spring and the heat of summer. Autumn sees me working inside for 50+ hours a week but at least I’m standing during that time. Love that I have a healthy tan over the winter months and it has certainly helped me through the winter blues by being in tune with the seasons and getting plenty of sunlight (bonus – I don’t have to work on wet days!). Only complaint I have is having to wear Sorel Caribou’s for winter warmth and reasonably heavy boots (for safety) the rest of the time.