Feeling trapped at work? Head to the nearest window and try to find a park or tree to stare at for a bit—new research from University of Melbourne suggests that looking at greenery could boost concentration. What’s more, you don’t even need to take a long break—just 40 seconds can make a difference.
Researchers gave 150 students a boring computer task, and then offered them a 40-second break halfway through the experiment. Half of the students were shown an image of a plain, concrete roof; the other half saw a roof with a flowering meadow. Once they resumed their number-punching activity, the students who saw the greenery made fewer errors and demonstrated higher levels of concentration than the other group. While this experiment used students, these findings, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, seem to apply to anyone spending all day indoors at a desk.
"It's really important to have micro-breaks. It's something that a lot of us do naturally when we're stressed or mentally fatigued," lead researcher Dr. Kate Lee said in a statement. "There's a reason you look out the window and seek nature, it can help you concentrate on your work and to maintain performance across the workday.”
If you don’t work near a park, there are other ways to reap the benefits of greenery while sitting at your desk—a recent UK study, for instance, found that office plants were correlated with a 15 percent productivity boost. And even just looking out the window can help, according to researchers from Northwestern Medicine, who found in one study that workers who were exposed to natural light slept better and experienced higher quality of life.
Next, Lee’s team plans to investigate the relationship between green workplaces and employee creativity and helpfulness.