Workplace wellbeing and green space

New research shows gardens and other green spaces at hospital sites have an important role to play in supporting staff wellbeing. Our year-long study focused on three NHS sites that had taken steps to encourage their staff to relax and recharge in green space. Staff stress has long been a critical issue for the NHS, where in 2019 more than four in 10 staff reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in the last 12 months. These problems have been greatly exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, making staff wellbeing a greater priority now than ever. Our research shows that there is a strong appetite among health staff to take time outdoors – either for breaks or in the course of work – and points to a range of wellbeing benefits.

The study found: 

  • At each of the sites a large majority of staff (83-89%) said they would like to spend more time in green space at their site than they currently did. Benefits described included feeling relaxed and calm, refreshed and re-energized and positive effects on mental and physical wellbeing. A sizable proportion of staff (44-52%) said attractive green spaces were important to them in considering where to work – suggesting that this affects recruitment and retention. 
  • Staff who said they regularly spent time in their sites’ green spaces during the working day reported significantly higher levels of wellbeing. The more ways in which staff said they spent time in green space at work, the higher was their reported wellbeing. 
  • The most common way in which staff spent time in green space at work was taking a walk at the site during a break. This points to strong potential for encouraging informal walking, either alone or with others, an initiative that had already proved successful at one of the sites in the study. 
  • While relatively few staff at each site had engaged in organised recreational activities at work, such as Qigong or gardening, those who had had slightly higher wellbeing scores than those who had not. 
  • Staff who had face-to-face contact with patients spent less time in green space than those who did not. However, contact with patients was also found to predict wellbeing. This suggests that staff spending time with patients in green space enjoy a dual wellbeing benefit. 

Our study was carried out in collaboration with the University of Essex and with support from the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people in the UK. 

The research, conducted before the pandemic, explored staff experience of time in green space at work, including both benefits and barriers.

Download the Space to Breathe Summary PDF, or the Full report

Watch the recording and presentations from the launch event on 22 October 2020.

research project needs your help

Group activities in nature and long-term wellbeing is a PhD research project exploring the experiences of people who take part in outdoor group activity programmes and the impact of attending them on their long-term wellbeing.

The aim of this study is to explore the longevity of benefits to participants’ wellbeing from attending outdoor group activity programmes during the ages of 16-29, by considering the impact on their wellbeing at the time and over their life. It has been shown that outdoor group activity programmes improve peoples’ wellbeing at the time, however, we are unsure how long the benefits last and if and how they become part of a person’s life. It is important we develop understanding of the factors at the activities and in people’s lives that support improvements to wellbeing over time and the factors which prevent this from happening as well. Especially considering the challenges to wellbeing (mental, physical and social) for individuals and communities.

Participants need to have attended:

  • during the ages of 16-29 (can be older now),
  • at least 5 years ago or if still attending started at least 5 years ago,
  • an adventure, environmental conservation, exercise, farming, or gardening programme.

Taking part involves two activities, producing a timeline representing specific experiences over your life and taking photos of a place you go to for your wellbeing, and two interviews. The activities will take around 15-45 minutes each and the interviews will be between 1-2 hours. The interviews will be by video chat or phone.

Further information about the study and taking part is at I am happy to answer any questions and discuss taking part with you via email,, or phone 01524 594710. Thank you for your consideration, Andy Harrod.

Asters lunch — My Botanical Garden

photo of pink asters with a bumble bee

Asters lunch — My Botanical Garden

Aviva Community Fund webinar: Measuring the Difference Your Work Makes

Getting your stakeholders and funders to understand the difference your work makes is essential to all community groups, charities and social enterprises so make the most of this free training.

Last week I circulated a link to a webinar that ran this Tuesday by the Aviva Community Fund in partnership with the FSI (Foundation for Social Improvement) about measuring your impact.  If you couldn’t make that webinar you might be interested to know that it’s is being repeated in November and December.  See dates and links below:

Nov 11, 2020 12:30 PM

Register in advance for this webinar:

Nov 26, 2020 12:30 PM

Register in advance for this webinar:

Dec 10, 2020 12:30 PM

Register in advance for this webinar:

11 Benefits of Cycling, Plus Safety Tips

Cycling is a low impact aerobic exercise that offers a wealth of benefits. It also varies in intensity, making it suitable for all levels. You can cycle as a mode of transport, for casual activity, or as an intense, competitive endeavor.

Cycling is a wonderful workout that keeps you active. It can help shape a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally.

Continue reading to take a look at some of the ways cycling can enhance your fitness level and well-being.

Find out more:

Empowering Communities through Nature

An illustrated talk by Tayshan Hayden-Smith from Grow2Know + Q&A hosted by Cordwainer’s Grow 

There’s been a huge increase in interest in gardening and nature during lockdown – especially among young people who perhaps wouldn’t normally be associated with gardening. A third of a million Britons have visited the RHS website for advice, seed companies saw a 600% increase in sales and a recent poll showed that 7 in 10 of us think gardening has helped our mental health. Most young people, though, don’t have their own space for gardening, and often don’t feel it’s for them anyway, so how can they access and be part of the benefits a garden brings? 

Tayshan Hayden-Smith, known as the Grenfell Guerrilla Gardener, founded the Grenfell Garden of Peace and set up Grow2Know, a community interest company which focuses on empowering young people through horticulture and creating a more inclusive environment. He doesn’t fit the normal profile of a gardener. He is young, of mixed heritage & is passionate about being a part of a more inclusive environment on the horticultural scene. 

View the recording here pass code Ldv4d1*Z

I Dig Trees!

We are delighted to be running I Dig Trees for the sixth year during the 2020/2021 planting season with OVO Energy. This fantastic partnership programme goes from strength to strength and is a great opportunity for any community group or volunteer to join in, feel good and make a difference.

For climate. For wildlife. For communities – I Dig Trees!

Please note: Free trees are only available in mainland UK, not Northern Ireland.

Get your FREE trees here

Meet 4 projects that are part of the movement to get kids into the great outdoors

Children are spending less time outside than ever before, affecting their health, wellbeing and love of the natural world. That’s why we’re proud to lead the Outdoor Classroom Day campaign, working with parents and educators to ensure kids get more time outdoors every day.

The movement to increase children’s access to nature involves community organisations too. Often working with children deprived of outside space, these organisations give children the opportunity to get their boots muddy and their hands in the dirt. 

In the run-up to Outdoor Classroom Day on 5 November, we spoke to 4 community organisations in the Semble network about how they’re helping to get kids outside in a wild variety of ways and why they’re so passionate about it. 

Find out more:

Study reveals world’s most walkable cities

Walking improves health and cuts pollution but most cities still dominated by cars, says report

The world’s most walkable cities include London, Paris, Bogotá and Hong Kong, according to a report. The UK capital outranks almost 1,000 cities around the world on citizens’ proximity to car-free spaces, schools and healthcare, and the overall shortness of journeys.

Researchers at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) said making cities walkable was vital to improve health, cut climate-heating transport emissions and build stronger local communities and economies. However, they said very few cities overall gave pedestrians priority and were dominated by cars. The report found US cities ranked particularly low for walkability due to urban sprawl.

Among cities with more than 5 million inhabitants, only Bogotá in Colombia was in the top five for all three measures. The first measure assessed the proportion of people living within 100m of a car-free place, such as parks, pedestrianised streets and squares. These enhance health, boost community connections and increase pedestrian safety, the researchers said. Hong Kong took the top spot with 85% within 100m, with Moscow, Paris and London completing the top five.

Find out more:

Outdoors for early learning and staff too….

This is why supporting outdoor play and outdoor learning is so important. It is not just the positive impact it can have on children, but also staff. The health and wellbeing of staff is key to delivering high quality childcare, and delivering #outdoorplay #outdoorlearning has a multitude of benefits. You can listen first hand to positive experiences, benefits and enthusiasm expressed by ELC practitioners in this short film – Enjoy Diarmaid Lawlor Mili Shukla tam baillie Theresa Casey Elaine Crichton John Rafferty CMgr FCMI Lawson Foundation

Rachel Cowper- Thrive Outdoors

Connecting People with Nature

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