A new study shows taking 40 second break to gaze at an image of a green roof improved performance and accuracy. The researcher said: “Our results…demonstrate that brief glimpses of a high-rise green roof scene can boost attention….”
Looking At Green Roofs May Boost Your Work Productivity
by Kate Ashford
Feeling stuck at work? Unable to churn out that report your boss needs, or brainstorm ideas for that new campaign? What if there was something you could do for 40 seconds that could amp up your productivity right away?
According to a new study, there is.
“Green roofs” are those in which a building rooftop has been covered with a layer of low-growing plants. Although it’s a new trend in the U.S., last year Washington D.C. installed more than 1.2 million square feet of green roofs, according to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. Philadelphia, Chicago and New York are also on the bandwagon. Their touted benefits include beautification, stormwater management and aiding in urban cooling.
Subjects who took a 40-second break from a demanding task to gaze at an image of a green roof improved performance and accuracy when they continued with the task, according to a study from the University of Melbourne. Compared to other subjects who only viewed a concrete roof, they were also more consistently alert after the break.
“Our research was designed to test the boundaries of the attention-restoring capacity of nature,” says study researcher Kate Lee. “It was informed by previous research showing concentration boosts after lush nature exposure of minutes-to-hours. Our results are exciting, however, as they demonstrate that brief glimpses of a high-rise green roof scene can boost attention, compared to a traditional city scene.”
In the experiment, 150 students worked at computers and responded to numbers flashing up on their screens. Every time a number flashed up, they were required to press a key, unless the number was “3,” in which case they were to press nothing. In a press release, researchers described the task as “boring” and “attention-sapping.”
In the middle of the task, participants got a 40-second micro-break, in which they saw either a city scene with either a normal concrete roof or a flowering meadow green roof. Then they went on with the task, called a “Sustained Attention to Response Task” (SART). The green-roof viewers, as mentioned, seemed revitalized and more focused on the second half of the test. Results were recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
“Heavy demands are placed on attention in the workplace and this research suggests a simple strategy to enhance concentration,” Lee says. “Our results suggest attention boosts that could have meaningful implications for any number of vital work tasks that involve executive functioning, such as strategizing, planning, reading and writing.”
For workers without access to a view of a green roof, it’s helpful to note that subjects here were only looking at images of one. And it’s possible that these benefits could be observed with other kinds of nature. “For example, viewing forests, woodlands and parks has also been shown to boost attention,” Lee says. “With more people living and working in increasingly dense cities, however, green roofs provide a novel solution for incorporating more nature.”
Researchers at the University of Melbourne are also interested in examining whether looking at workplace greening might enhance co-worker helpfulness and creativity.
Source: Forbes magazine, May 29, 2015