Framing well-being : how a view to nature and daylight entrance can enhance health, cognitive performance, and mood in office workers

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Beute, F. & Kort, de, Y.A.W. (2012). Framing well-being : how a view to nature and daylight entrance can enhance health, cognitive performance, and mood in office workers.

Abstract

 

Many workers spend the majority of their wakeful day in an office environment.

Windows, offering both a view to the outside and exposure to natural light, are important elements of such environments in terms of well-being, performance, and health. In earlier studies, beneficial effects of windows have been attributed to either daylight or viewingnature [cf. 1,2]. The research objective of the current study was to simultaneously study effects of views to nature and daylight exposure on health, mood, and cognitive performance.

We conducted a field study among office employees at the campus of the Eindhoven University of Technology. The research consisted of two stages. In the first stage experimenters visited employees (N=142) in their offices to administer a questionnaire and an attention test, and to record office characteristics. All offices were located on the first or second floor of the buildings. Measurements included the number of natural decorations, orientation and size of the window, illumination levels, and orientation to and distance from the window. Furthermore, photographs of the full window views were categorised as natural, mixed, or built based on the ratio of natural elements (trees, grass, shrubs) compared to built elements (sky was treated as neutral). The questionnaire probed mood (four dimensions: energy, tension, positive affect, and sadness), evaluations of the view and office, and some control variables (e.g., job type). Directed attention capacity was measured with the Necker Cube test (NCT). During the second stage, participants completed an additional Internet survey. This survey measured psychosomatic health symptoms, need for restoration, perceived stress, sleep quality, and trait self-control.

Multiple regression analyses revealed several determinants of mood and cognitive performance. Naturalness of the view significantly predicted performance on the NCT

(ß=-.21, p=.03, R²=0.4). Naturalness of the view and evaluation of the window

predicted tension (ß=-.20, p=.02; ß=-.26, p=.003 resp., R² = .13). Window size and evaluation of the window significantly predicted feelings of energy (ß=3.1, p=.02; ß=-.32, p=.00, resp., R²=.18) and alertness (ß=-.18, p=.04; ß=-.20, p=.02, resp., R²=.08). Analysis of the Internet questionnaire data is still ongoing.

Findings indicate a relation between view type and daylight entrance on the one hand and several indicators of human functioning on the other. A possible limitation of the study is its quasi-experimental set-up. However, our results largely correspond with effects found in more controlled laboratory environments, extending these results into a more ecologically valid setting.