Friday, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with staring out of the window

Monday of this week was supposedly the most depressing of the year. Blue Monday, in fact. The day when our return to work after the Christmas break combines with the lack of daylight and a wave of existential dread as our resolution(s) falter and fall to help crush our spirits.

There is or was a running joke within IBM that their buildings don’t have windows, they have outside awareness ports. It’s an idea that not only reflects the culture of long hours spent staring at computer screens – something you don’t have to work for Big Blue to be aware of – but also one that acknowledges our need to be aware of the wider world when we are at work. Our gut instinct tells us that we are better off either outdoors or looking at it.

There’s a very good reason why we feel better after some fresh air and some sunshine. It’s in our nature.

The research backs our gut instinct. Quite a few years ago, a groundbreaking study into what make us productive at work was published by researchers Adrian Leaman and Bill Bordass. What they found, based on extensive research into a number of organisations, is that there are a number of ‘killer variables’ that affect productivity at work.

What is especially interesting is that of the eight most important variables, two of them were identified as a ‘pleasant working environment’ and ‘a level of outside awareness’. In other words, our visual surroundings and the knowledge that outside the building is a bright, big world full of light and oxygen make us happier, less stressed and help us to work better. Their conclusions have been backed by researchers ever since.

Being aware of the wider world makes us more productive. It’s a simple fact and one we should accept. Now, the best way of achieving this is, of course, going for a walk outside or at the very least looking out of the window. While there’s a reason why firms are enthusiastically increasing the number of natural images they use in the workplace, there’s nothing like the real thing.

Image: From Edward Hopper’s Office in a Small City. Hopper’s fascination with windows is explored in this blog.  

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