A study from Finland has shown employees who work in an environment that incorporates biophilic design, such as plants, make significantly fewer mistakes. It explains that such employees make 43 per cent less mistakes, when performing demanding cognitive tasks that can cause stress.
Naava, an eco-friendly furniture designing firm, conducted the research, which involved 12 participants performing cognitive word association tests using pen and paper over a period of two days. The first day’s tests took place in a room with green walls that had biophilic properties and could purify the air whereas the second day test was carried out in a room without any green walls.
During the word association task, participants were given 20 words and had 10 minutes to write up to 30 associated words for each. Mistakes included misspellings, corrections, or words that did not follow the instructions. On an average, participants made 28 mistakes in the control room, while in the biophilic environment, the average number of mistakes decreased to 12. In addition to making fewer mistakes, participants who were surrounded by greenery during the experiment also showed increased levels of the happiness hormone oxytocin and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Aki Soudunsaari, Co-founder, Naava, stated that although we are more creative and smarter outdoors, we tend to spend 22 hours a day indoors. He also mentioned that most workplaces are unappealing, and some can even be harmful to our health, as they expose us to stress-inducing stimuli such as artificial lighting and sterile air.
Before and after the cognitive tasks, the researchers also collected experimental data, which included a self-report questionnaire to assess mood, environmental comfort, anxiety, and fear, as well as measurements of heart rate and body temperature. They also took blood and saliva samples to conduct hormonal analyses, measuring levels of oxytocin and cortisol before and after the task and it was indeed found increased.
Soudunsaari concludes that plants have historically been associated with food, water, and shelter, symbolizing a secure environment. As a result, when we are surrounded by nature, our minds can relax, and we can focus on the task at hand instead of being vigilant about our surroundings. He also noted that this effect on our attention is subconscious.
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