Sustainable workplace – study proves connection to nature lessens fatigue
A new study from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, published this month in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, attached portable EEGs to the scalps of 12 healthy young adults. The electrodes, hidden unobtrusively beneath an ordinary looking fabric cap, sent brain wave readings wirelessly to a laptop carried in a backpack by each volunteer.
The volunteers where then asked to walk through an older part of Edinburgh with plenty of pedestrians, but with only light car traffic. They then moved onto a path that led through a park-like setting for another half mile. Finally, they ended their walk strolling through the newer parts of Edinburgh with greater vehicle traffic and concrete buildings.
The results from the EEGs showed what we have inherently known but didn’t have empirical evidence for – green spaces lessens brain fatigue.
In the busy streets the EEGs showed brainwaves that indicated the participants were aroused and frustrated, in the park setting they were more meditative.
According the New York Times article Jenny Roe, a lecturer at Heriot-Watt’s School of the Built Environment said “Natural environments still engage” the brain, but the attention demanded “is effortless. It’s called involuntary attention in psychology. It holds our attention while at the same time allowing scope for reflection.”
The study suggests that, right about now, you should consider “taking a break from work,” Dr. Roe said, and “going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces from your office window.” This is not unproductive lollygagging, Dr. Roe helpfully assured us. “It is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.”
Impact on the Workplace
So what does this mean for our workplaces?
Does it mean we should measure the sustainable value of our property by its proximity to parks and nature?
Or is the integration of trees into the workplace enough to calm the brainwaves?
Or can we mask our senses and pretend we are among trees?
Or is the materiality of the space the most important thing?
However we do it, the study from Scotland gives us some empirical evidence to demonstrate that a connection to nature in our workplaces is becoming more and more important as we become more and more urbanised.