Sweden’s “Out of the Office Office” Initiative will Give Your Mental Health a Lift

Here's your workcation in nature.

A woman typing on her laptop is sitting at a desk in a room with panoramic view of the treetops.
Credit: Tina Stafrén/Visit Sweden

Remote working skyrocketed during the pandemic, and the trend is here to stay. But beyond the occasional faux pas on Zoom, remote working isn’t a paradise for everyone. People who thrive on face-to-face connection and nonverbal communication have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation1. Remote working also blurred the boundaries between being on-the-clock and a defined personal life. For many, trying to fulfill all life roles in the same space, at the same time, has led to feelings of failure and a decline in mental health. 

To improve the morale of its workforce, Sweden developed a national initiative, the “Out of Office, Office” program. Essentially, it’s a workcation in nature. 

In collaboration with Karolinska Institutet, Swedish researchers put it to the test with a study2 to measure the effects of combining work in nature. The results were extraordinary. After just one week participants felt less depressed, calmer, and more harmonious. Perceived stress decreased by a whopping 48 percent. Sleep quality improved, with longer periods of uninterrupted rest. 

Mare Löhmus Sundström, Associate Professor and Affiliated Researcher at Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, explains “… [this] shows the possible implications nature can have on our work life… the results are in line with previous research and clearly indicate the positive impact nature can have on our wellbeing.” You can discover more about why nature is so important to our mental health in, Getting Outside and Forest Bathing is Just as Important As a Healthy Diet

Integrating Nature into Your Workday Can Reduce Stress

So how does Sweden’s Out of Office, Office program work? The initiative curated the most feasible workcation in nature accommodations across the country – locales that don’t sacrifice productivity or connectivity. The selection also appeals to a variety of personality types. After all, immersing yourself in nature isn’t necessarily synonymous with roughing it.

Astad winery stands out beneath a looming sky
Astad winery stands out beneath a looming sky. Image by Ästad

In Skåne, Sweden’s southernmost region, nature and luxury intersect at Ästad Vingård. An organic winery with an onsite luxury hotel, sauna and wellness garden, it’s the perfect place for a nature-driven workcation. From a mid-day walk through the vineyard or beech forest to picnics on the lakefront within a pristine nature reserve to relaxing in a sensorial underwater sauna followed by a cold-water plunge in a spring-fed pond, relaxation is guaranteed. Even sauna provides panoramic views of nature.

Ästad Vingård’s also appeals to foodies as ÄNG, its previously Michelin-starred restaurant, sources ingredients from local farms, forests, and lakes. The restaurant only gave up its star to expand into an eco-architectural greenhouse on a nearby meadow.

Seek Nature in the City

Bikers on a road in Helsingborg
Bikers on a road in Helsingborg. Image by Studio E.

For those who crave nature but still want one foot in an urban environment, Helsingborg is the perfect option. This popular mid-sized city is surrounded by forests and a stunning coastline on Sweden’s Lund Peninsula. Stay in the center at the boutique V Hotel, which boasts high-speed internet and dedicated work spaces. When you need a break, simply step outside and soak up the panoply of nature-driven experiences within walking distance. 

Stroll along the coast to the Pålsjöbaden bathhouse on a pier jutting out over the sea for an authentic Swedish experience. Warm up in the sauna with floor to ceiling panoramic water views. Then take an exhilarating cold plunge into the Öresund Strait that leads to the Baltic Sea.

Feeling the need to venture further afield? Rent an electric bicycle and pedal along the mostly flat trail winding through the quaint seaside fishing village of Viken, which boasts charming, colorful houses, not to mention Mölle’s incredibly scenic harbor. Hike through Kullaberg, a nature reserve with wild coastline and panoramic views. Or meander through southern Sweden’s nearby vineyards.

For a convenient dose of nature, the Skåneleden hiking trail literally winds through Helsingborg’s city center, taking you through nearby forests with views of the sea. 

Seclude Yourself in Nature

Niehku mountain villa skiing
Mountaintop views care of Niehku Mountain Villa. Image by Mattias Fredriksson/Niehku.

If you’re of the opinion of “the more remote the better,” then Swedish Lapland is the place for you, specifically Niehku Mountain Villa, just above the Arctic Circle. 

Take power meetings during the day, then ski powder under the midnight sun. Mountain climb, marvel at the Northern Lights, or hike along the road less traveled, becoming one of the very few to traverse Arctic trails leading to glacier lakes. Equipped with the latest tech, you’ll never be disconnected or unavailable for a Zoom meeting, even at altitude.

warming up in front of a cozy fire at Niehku Mountain Villa
Warming up in front of a cozy fire at Niehku Mountain Villa. Image by Mattias Fredriksson/Niehku.

Other options include Fjällnäs, Sweden’s oldest mountain hotel boasting eight distinct seasons. Or the minimalist Bergaliv glass cabin, located in a dense forest with sweeping views stretching along a river valley. Animal lovers will fall head-over-heels for Siggesta Gård, a working farm in the Stockholm archipelago, less than an hour by bus from the city center.

Sweden’s initiative isn’t meant to be a one-and-done experience. Rather, it’s designed to instill a new habit of combining nature into your everyday work life – not just on the weekend. Even if you can’t head to Sweden right now, you can still reap the benefits of this initiative at home.

Make space in your schedule to connect with nature before screen time, whether you wake up early or break away during the day. Even micro-moments in nature are enough to cultivate more calm in your life, and with the newfound flexibility remote working offers, it’s easier than ever before. 

Related on Organic Authority
Forest Bathing: The Secret to Health and Happiness?
5 Ways to (Bio)Hack Your Way to Better Health
7 Amazing Treehouse Hotels for the Best Sleep Ever

Sources
1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ankurmodi/2021/09/27/the-untold-side-of-remote-working-isolation-and-lack-of-career-progression
2. https://news.cision.com/visit-sweden-usa/r/sweden-s-new-initiative–out-of-office-office–offers-remote-workers-offices-in-nature,c3411594

Tags: