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Director calls for more outdoor work: "Just do it, it's good"

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Article by Freja Valla Broman & Ida Stahl

The contractor company Elindco has expanded its office in Jyllinge by several thousand square meters in the past year. The new square meters are located under the open sky and the expansion is inspired by a research project the company took part in in the spring of 2022. CEO Jørgen Thomsen wanted to move more work tasks out into the open - a move he sticks to and encourages more companies to take themselves.

Almost a year ago, the managing director at Elindco, Jørgen Thomsen, received an email about a new research project that was to investigate the beneficial effects that taking work tasks outside can have for employees and the company. Jørgen Thomsen felt inspired and made a decision; Elindco should be involved.

Jørgen Thomsen wanted to create a positive change in Elindco and increase employee well-being. With just a few days' notice, he reached out to his employees across the organization and informed them that Elindco would participate in a research project around 'outside work'. A project that would prove to be the start of a major internal change.

"I sent an email to our management and the employees who have their daily routine at our head office here in Jyllinge. I described what we had to participate in, how it was structured, what we got out of participating, and that I expected everyone to participate. And then we kind of just took it from there," says a smiling Jørgen Thomsen about the start.

 

An encounter with nature

For Jørgen Thomsen, employees' well-being and well-being are an important source of a successful workplace. It has been an important focal point in the management strategy since he assumed the role of CEO of Elindco in 2020. The research project, which focused on nature's beneficial effects on mental health, was perfect for Elindco. The head office is located in scenic surroundings in Jyllinge and the outdoor areas invite social respite and one-on-one conversations. It was essential to map out routes and areas suitable for both short and long outdoor meetings and telephone conversations, as well as to create an overview of which tasks are ideal to take outside.

“We drew up six routes. We have the ultra-short route of 11-16 minutes depending on who you go with. It is only 600 meters around the area. Then we have the marathon distance, which is close to an hour, which goes along the water's edge," he says and subsequently emphasizes that he has also started moving many of his meetings outside. Here, Jørgen Thomsen mentions that the weekly board meeting at times is more open and engaged when it takes place outside, like a walk'n'talk.

About Elindco

  • Elindco was established in 1968 and today employs 160 employees.

  • The contractor works with construction projects within, among other things, health, education, institutions, housing and business as well as culture and leisure.

  • The company has an office in Jyllinge, where almost 20 of the company's employees have their daily routine. The remaining employees have their daily routine on the construction sites.

  • Elindco participated in a research project in spring 2022 that focused on taking work tasks outside.

  • Elindco signed i.a. went up in the local area and invested in new outdoor furniture to encourage its employees to move work tasks into the open air.

  • Elindco wants to strengthen the culture of bringing work tasks outside because it is healthy for the employee and the company.

Leader, take the lead

Jørgen Thomsen knew very well that if the project was to succeed, he himself had to take the lead and take his own work out into the open. He therefore made an effort to both show and legitimize that it is okay for employees to go outside to work. In this way he encouraged them to change their habits. He himself has experienced a positive effect and wishes that more managers dare to take the lead and move more of the day's tasks out into the fresh air.

"Use of the outdoor areas is spreading like ripples in water. Part of the implementation is also that you take the lead in terms of management and act as a firebrand. The management must throw itself into the ring or, if you like, into nature, otherwise it is untrustworthy," he says.

Jørgen Thomsen sees it all as a learning process. Once he had thrown himself into the project together with his employees, the good ideas started to appear. More people started to think along and an idea arose for an outdoor meeting room with a half roof and a projector. Gradually, however, it dawned on everyone that the point of the project was precisely not to take the screen work outside. It's about getting oxygen to the brain and working with other tools. One of Elindco and Jørgen Thomsen's lessons was that it should not be seen as a mistake if there is something that does not work as intended or an idea that does not come to fruition. On the contrary, it provides insight into how the task is best approached going forward.

 

"It is not dangerous. The company does not go bankrupt, the employees do not quit for that reason. On the contrary, the corners of the mouth slowly move up, and you simply become happier in the lid over time. Throw yourself into it,” he urges.

It takes time to create an outdoor culture

Despite the fact that it has been a year since Elindco was part of the research project, outdoor work is still part of the organisation's daily life. However, Jørgen Thomsen mentions that there are fluctuations in how often the work moves outside, and that both he and the employees are more seasonally dependent than they would like to be. There have been periods over the winter when much of the work has moved indoors. Jørgen Thomsen says that he thinks it's perfectly okay and emphasizes that habits and culture across an organization take time to change.

"After our participation in the research project, employee well-being through outdoor work fills more of everyday life. It is clear that there is still room for improvement, because it takes several years to build and change a culture," he says.

It is not Jørgen Thomsen himself who is at the forefront of the project's second season. Here, it is his employees who have gradually started to move more pair conversations, one-to-one meetings and status meetings outside.

“We've already inspired each other to some new good habits last year, and it's starting to pick up again now. It's great to feel how the positive change is spreading across the organisation," says Jørgen Thomsen and continues:

 

"The most important learnings are sort of 'just do it', it's not that complicated. And above all, as I have said a few times when others have asked me, it is not dangerous - on the contrary. It gives new energy.”

After participating in the research project, the management has made an active choice that the outdoor environment is part of Elindco's workplace and can be used for all kinds of work activities. Elindco hopes that they can inspire other companies and managers to step out and use nature, because it is healthy for the employee and the company.

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