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5 Surprising Benefits of Outdoor Meetings

The workplace has changed and the indoor conference room no longer reigns supreme for team meetings.

The global workplace has changed, and savvy management teams know how to surf the waves of cultural shifts to create win-win scenarios. One such innovation is tossing the conference room to the curb, at least sometimes, and embracing outdoor meetings. Doing so has surprising benefits for staff and the C-suite alike.

How can a simple change of venue supercharge your productivity, engage otherwise reluctant speakers and even lead to fewer sick days? It’s all in the magic of Mother Nature, baby. Once you understand the science behind these five benefits of outdoor meetings, you’ll never use your conference room for anything other than Zoom. Here’s what to know.


Increased employee participation

You know that Jane in marketing has brilliant ideas from the work they produce, but put them in the conference room, and they clam up tighter than a crime suspect after requesting a lawyer. In fact, they look like they’d rather be anywhere else. Why are they so reluctant to share their genius with the group? Is it because they aren’t team players? Maybe they’re jealous or narcissistic and afraid someone will steal their thunder.

It could be none of the above, although those are the assumptions many bosses might make. What they don’t understand is that many non-neurotypical individuals may perform beautifully under certain circumstances but crumble under others — like the conference room.

For example, many people with autism struggle with eye contact because it overwhelms them with sensory input, distracting them from the words spoken — and employers have no idea who is on the spectrum. They see someone in the conference room tapping their pencil, swinging their leg and assume they are distracted or bored, never understanding that the employee is paying much more attention than they would be if they adopted neurotypical behaviors.

However, get them out on the sidewalk or the trail where they don’t have to meet their colleague’s eyes, and all of a sudden, they’re happy to share. Walking calms their anxiety like stimming, allowing them to participate freely. Likewise, folks with ADHD experience a reduction in symptoms when in a green environment.

However, outdoor meetings are far from merely an accommodation for the “neurospicy” people in your organization. Everyone experiences similar distractions and mental hurdles, if not to an extreme degree. The same environmental shift that helps people with autism and ADHD focus and contribute also promotes more active sharing from all staff members. It’s beautifully inclusive.


Mental and physical health improvements

Oodles of research back the myriad physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. However, modern people still spend most of their time inside four walls. Why, when the perks are so plentiful and free? Time is often the deciding factor. When wages struggle to keep pace with inflation, people must work longer and harder, and recreation and leisure are the first things on the chopping block. By the time your staff gets home, it may be past dark.

Ample studies show a brief period in the sun boosts productivity and focus. That alone should convince some managers to embrace outdoor meetings. However, doing so also delivers the following perks that might result in fewer sick days and coverage headaches:

  • Reduced anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • A stronger immune system
  • Lowered stress hormone levels
  • Improved vision and hearing


Boost community outreach

One of the best ways to grow your business is to engage in community outreach. Doing so shows your organization understands its role as contributing to society at large and generates a positive reputation as a firm that gives back. However, finding the right ways to contribute may challenge you. Although many businesses partner with existing charitable organizations, not all employees may buy into that shared mission.

Outdoor meetings inform you about what’s happening in your immediate neighborhood and where your firm can help. For example, many city planners and citizens alike dream of transforming abandoned lots into pocket parks to serve as meeting spaces, safe play areas and places to relax during lunch or after work. If you witness such plans in the works or overhear conversations, you can jump in and offer assistance or become a sponsor to cover materials.

People tend to take stewardship over areas they use daily. Is the public park where your team likes to walk a mass of litter? Pick up some inexpensive grabbers and trash bags at the dollar store, don your team T-shirts, and do an impromptu cleanup at your next meeting. Residents will see your firm advertised as your squad beautifies their recreation area, giving them a positive impression of your organization as a great place to shop or conduct other business.


Attract new team members

It isn’t only area residents who notice you when you host outdoor meetings. Prospective employees do, too, and competition for the best staff members remains tight. The very act of stepping outside the conference room pegs you as a more progressive organization that puts the needs and health of your staff at the forefront, making it an attractive place to work.

It’s no secret that RTO mandates caused considerable consternation after officials lifted pandemic restrictions. Outdoor meetings help you attract quality local talent — and someone with a 10-minute commute is much more likely to comply with badge swipe requirements.


Inspire creativity and innovation

Finally, spending time in outdoor environments liberates your mind and body. It makes you feel more free, inspiring creativity and sparking innovation.

Think about it. Where have your great flashes of genius occurred? Chances are, they didn’t strike at your work desk as much as they might have driven you back to it. Insight often bubbles up from inside when your brain is distracted by a brightly colored bird than when trying to force it into compliance. A little change of scenery could be the secret sauce your team needs to power through roadblocks.


Making outdoor meetings accessible

Outdoor meetings have impressive benefits. However, how accessible are they for all employees? What if you have someone with mobility or severe sensory issues?

Many employees who are immunocompromised may automatically find such meetings more accessible. The pandemic illustrated that socializing outdoors is generally less risky than doing so indoors, easing their anxiety.

However, the best approach for those with mobility or sensory challenges is to simply ask the individual what they need — privately, of course. Pull them aside for a moment to ask what would make it accessible to them. Perhaps you could sit at a picnic table where they could roll their wheelchair to one end or choose a quiet park for a walking meeting instead of a crowded sidewalk.

Video conferencing has come a long way, and you may be able to stream your outdoor meeting if doing so won’t compromise security. However, you can also record the events for those who cannot attend live and use secure means to share them within your organization if live streaming isn’t possible. It’s still better than RTO mandates that call most members to the office only to meet via Zoom from their cubicles.


Surprise benefits of outdoor meetings

The workplace has changed, and the conference room no longer reigns supreme for getting the team together. Outdoor meetings have oodles of benefits for staff and employers alike.

Employers benefit from outdoor meetings through more focused and healthier team members. Staff often flourishes from the change of venue and access to the outdoors. Reap these perks by hosting your next corporate gathering at the local park.


Beth Rush is the career and finance editor at Body+Mind. She has 5+ years of experience writing about time management strategies and the power of human design to reveal entrepreneurial potential. She also writes about using the emotion of awe to activate our leadership prowess.


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