3 ways to encourage your employees to get outside — for Earth Day and beyond

There are many health and wellness benefits to spending time outside, so harness those within the workday.

By Kacey Larsen      
encourage your employees to get outside

With Earth Day 2022 on April 22 and summer fast approaching, many are starting to think about spending time outdoors or are already taking advantage of the warming temperatures. And the benefits around doing so are many.   

In an article for Sempervirens Fund, Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, M.D., lead medical director for AllTrails, shares 10 research-based health and wellness benefits for getting outside. A few on her list are:

  • Improved mental health and reduce stress.
  • Outdoor exercise results in higher satisfaction and likelihood of repetition.
  • Lowered blood pressure and reduced cancer risk.
  • Boosted immune function.
  • Improved memory, attention span and creative problem-solving abilities.

While the associated benefits with time outdoors are clear, how can employers support and encourage employees to take advantage? Here are three ideas for Earth Day and beyond.

1. Recommend working outside.

Whether employees are working at the office or remotely, determine if there are ways to support them in working outside. Perhaps the office itself has an outdoor space or there is a park nearby where teams could head for lunch or meetings. Also, walking meetings — whether together or separately — may be a welcome break from the screen and incorporate some daylight and physical activity.

For those who can’t go outdoors during the workday, access to windows and daylight can still provide some of the same benefits. Consider allowing employees to reserve space or work in a window-filled conference room or other communal spaces if their desks at the office aren’t next to windows.

2. Host a photo challenge.

The U.S. Office of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Programs hosts a virtual Department of Commerce Earth Day photo challenge. Selected photos are then highlighted within a range of the department’s communications.

This could be easily replicated by any organization around Earth Day or, perhaps better yet, like at digital business executive search firm Talentfoot, where employees share photos of how they use mental health days.

“We have two days a year for mental health, and we call it a ‘brain break day,’” says Camille Fetter, founder and CEO at Talentfoot. “[Employees] are supposed to go do something just for themselves and no one else, and then we send photos to each other hiking and just all over the country doing fun things. And no one feels guilty for taking the day off.”

3. Arrange an outdoor volunteer or team building activity.

There are numerous Earth Day events and volunteer opportunities, which can be found on the organization’s website. Many of those same types of events also occur or can be organized year-round.

A day of volunteering together could also translate to a team building activity, and there are plenty of options to offer specifically in that capacity as well. The company could sponsor or share registrations for local recreational sports leagues or running or biking groups. Or some cities offer movies or concerts in the park throughout the warmer months, which could also be a fun way to gather together and perhaps include employees’ families and friends as well.

If arranging or promoting outdoor settings or activities to employees, don’t forget to also encourage the wearing of sunscreen and other protective apparel as well as educate them on the signs of heat-related illnesses.