I like to watch business and office design trends because, personally, there’s nothing I hate more than the cubicle. Having worked in one too long, I know that nothing kills productivity and creativity more than blank, grey partitions and white walls.
Because the cubicle is so prevalent in offices everywhere, there’s this tendency we have to unconsciously replicate this at home.
But in the past few years, a new trend has emerged, coming mostly from England but taking over North America as well: the outdoor office.
The idea is simple: take your work outside. Have meetings surrounded by the sound of birds. Breathe the fresh air freely given by trees everywhere. It helps you relax and get more things done at the same time. Sounds great? Yeah, I thought so too.
Okay. You probably have a study or a computer space somewhere in your home, where you and your family get work done on evenings and weekends. Or you may work mostly from home, like me. I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building, and I don’t have yard space. But even if you do, you may not feel like you want to move your office outdoors, especially if the climate doesn’t allow it for most of the year.
So I started thinking, what if I took nature indoors?
Natural decor, your home office, and your windows
One thing I like to do, when I can, is to have my desk face a window. You can always lift your eyes up from your screen or your paper and look at the nearby trees. An open window will let you hear the sound of birds. You could even install a bird feeder within your view to attract more of them.
If you can see your yard from the window, or if you have big ceiling-high windows to look through (lucky you), you may want to consider planting some flowers and doing some landscaping so your yard is attractive at any time of the year. This isn’t taking nature indoors as making sure that nature is available from the indoors, but it still works.
Leave those windows open as long as you can–there’s nothing like an intake of fresh, outdoor air to re-oxygenate your blood and activate your brain.
Bring in plants to enliven your home office
Potted plants are a popular decor item, but have you thought about incorporating them in your study or home office? We often think of this space as a sterile, intellectual place in the house where “serious” work gets done, but what’s more serious than the tree under which Isaac Newton discovered gravity?
Place a potted indoor tree in the corner behind your easy chair to give the impression of reading with your back against a trunk. The air filtering benefits of bigger plants such as small trees can also help keep you concentrated for long hours.
You can hang potted plants from strategic spots on your ceiling to imitate a leafy canopy above your head. The play of light and shadow will remind you of hiking in the woods. Whenever work becomes too strenuous, you can lift your eyes and imagine walking in a beautiful green forest.
Choose natural materials and colors for your home office
A touch of nature isn’t just about plants. By using natural materials such as wood and stone on your floor and walls, you can make your home office or study feel more like a clearing in the woods than a room in a house.
Some colors can also trigger your brain’s love of nature. Dark greens are obvious, but think of all the other colors in nature: the flaming reds, yellows and oranges of fall, the pure white of snow, the tender green and pink of a cherry tree in bloom. The secret is in their combination.
Have you ever thought about getting a small indoor decorative fountain? Along with natural stone walls, plants and dark wood furniture, the “babbling brook” sound of these fountains will trick your brain into thinking you’re sitting under the shade of beautiful old trees near a crystalline stream. Imagine the creative boost!
Let nature guide you
We can’t always take a walk in nature whenever we feel like. Our increasingly urban, indoor lives have turned us away from our natural environment. But you always bring nature back inside your home and reap some of the great benefits of regular contact with nature.
Of course, a more natural home office can’t replace a real spot in the woods, but in no time you’ll start noticing a more relaxed attitude towards work and increased focus and creativity. There’s a reason why writers and artists of all kinds tend to move to the countryside: a natural setting is more conducive to creative work than our glass and concrete cities.
And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, why not look into moving your office outside, at least for the nicer months of the year? I’ll present some examples and inspiration in a future post.
Have you ever tried an outdoor office? How did you integrate elements of nature into your home office or study? Have you noticed any benefits? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!