Plants in office

Sitting in a gray room with no windows isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. And according to some new research published in PLoS ONE, it’s not anyone’s idea of a productive time either.

The paper, titled “Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes,” looked at how things like sunlight and natural elements in the work environment influenced people’s job performance.

What the results showed was that sunlight, greenery and natural elements seem to affect people’s workplace experiences in a whole range of ways.

First, direct sunlight in the workplace is associated with anxiety. That is, people with less exposure to direct sunlight at work tend to be more anxious.

With a lack of indirect sunlight, things get even worse. Amount of indirect sunlight at work is related to:

  • Depressed mood
  • Job satisfaction
  • Organizational commitment

In other words, your average person with no windows in their office is just a bit more likely to hate their life, hate their job, and hate their employer.

Greenery and natural elements in the workplace also matter. In particular, they seem to make people more resilient at work: people with more natural elements in their workplaces are less likely to become depressed, anxious or unsatisfied with their jobs in response to certain kinds of workplace stress.

The takeaway from this study is pretty clear, and it points to a straightforward way for employers (including people who are their own employers!) to improve their employees’ quality of life and productivity: bring more light and nature into the workplace.

More generally, it’s also a reminder that your physical environment matters. There are still a lot of things psychology researchers don’t know, but here’s one that seems like a pretty safe bet: sitting for extended periods of time in dark, windowless rooms likely won’t improve your mental health.

How much time d’you spend in places with light and greenery? Post in the comments!

Image: FreeImages.com/Jaime Krayger