Natural imagery can improve wellbeing of people at work

wellbeing and natural imageryA new study from University of South Australia PhD student Bridgette Minuzzo suggests that workplace art that depicts natural imagery can improve levels of wellbeing even in offices that lack windows. Minuzzo installed nature-themed artworks at three university campuses and a hospital in Adelaide, measuring the mental wellbeing of participants beforehand and after.

She reported any changes in their mental fatigue and stress levels over the next month and concluded that viewing a landscape for brief periods cut stress and fatigue levels by up to 40 percent. Minuzzo said previous research showed that access to experiencing nature – even through a window – reduced stress but she wanted to test if artworks could have a similar effect.

“It’s all about a connection with nature,” Minuzzo says. “More than 70 per cent of Australians live in cities and spend around 83 per cent of their day indoors. Many offices have clean wall policies and no windows.

“This doesn’t allow any chance to connect with nature, denying us views to hills, sky, water or foliage, which is so essential for our wellbeing. We know that experiencing nature not only focuses attention but also reduces mental fatigue which – my study found – affects workers for one to three hours every day,” Minuzzo says.

Restful landscapes offer office workers a chance to be “mentally out in nature, which has a calming and relaxing effect”. What’s more, viewing the art activates other areas of the brain, stimulating imaginative and creative thinking, Minuzzo’s studies showed.

“The participants reported that landscape paintings evoked fond memories of holidays and time spent in nature. Looking at the scenes rejuvenates tired brains and helps workers to refocus on tasks. All the evidence shows that art in the office is not a distraction or decorative extra but can improve mental wellbeing and productivity. It is restorative, stimulating and good for our work-weary brains.”