The trade magazine Fakta’s January 2013 issue included an article entitled ‘More nature, less stress’, about the SAS Institute, the company ranked number one on the Best Companies to Work For list. It is not a research facility for the airline company of the same name, but a software solution and analytics company based on excellence in statistical analysis. The company’s story began some 36 years ago as a project at North Carolina State University.
SAS Institute’s head office is located in a lush, green environment, designed to reduce stress. The green space in the 350 hectares of campus area covers parks, meadows and footpaths, complete with sheep and artwork. People walk from building to building, because walking provides good opportunities to come up with new ideas and innovations. The starting point for the concept lies in studies suggesting that nature has a positive impact on health and well-being. Evidently the concept works, because employee satisfaction at the company is very high.
The stress-reducing impact of natural environments and green spaces is a combination of various factors: stress hormone levels, blood pressure and heart rate go down and muscle tension is relieved. They can also help us to regain focus and attention span, perform demanding tasks, and lift our mood. The great thing is that you can feel the change after spending just a few minutes in nature. It has been observed that spending just half an hour each day in nature is sufficient for achieving a clear impact on well-being.
What would be the first step in improving one’s well-being? Exposure to nature, or green spaces, can be achieved in three ways: seeing and observing, being close to it, and engaging in activities. Being able to see green space through your office window is enough to increase well-being at work and accelerate recovery from illnesses. Experiencing the nature indoors can be enhanced by using pictures of landscapes or constructing green walls. The latest innovations implemented around the world include picnic greens so that staff can have their lunch on a strip of grass whilst staying indoors. The only limit is imagination!