Many of us spend the vast majority of our working time indoors. Even though the boundaries of the physical spaces of work are changing in an increasingly flexibilized working life, the threshold between indoors and outdoors still seems high and mainly unquestioned. However, the reasons for developing ways of increasing humans’ regular exposure to natural elements are many as there is a large body of knowledge linking contact with nature to positive effects upon wellbeing and health.
This research aims at contributing to a more sustainable working life by exploring the potential benefits and challenges of bringing (office-)work into the urban outdoors, by identifying ways/forms in which work may be conducted outdoors, understand under which circumstances (obstacles and enablers) and what it may give. The study is based upon an interactive research project within a Swedish municipality, financed by the European Social Fund. Fifty participants engaged in an eighteen-month learning process including reflective group discussions, co-interviews, workshops and active experimentation of bringing work activities outdoors, also documented via a mobile-app.
Drawing upon a thematic analysis in dialogue with the participants some initial results can be summarized. It is evident that a number of work activities may be brought outdoors for various purposes, individually and together. Proximity to outdoor greenspaces is essential and, depending on type of work activity, physical and technical support of different sorts may be required. Working outdoors is experienced positively in many ways, contributing to better conversations and feelings of being energized, calm, focused, inspired and free, among other things. However, another prominent feeling is that of guilt and illegitimacy.