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Office art can help address stress and fatigue levels

Most of us don’t have pretty images around us while we churn out the nine-to-five. But having paintings adorning the walls of our workplaces can make a difference, according to new research.

University of South Australia PhD student Bridgette Minuzzo recently measured the impact of landscape paintings on office workers and students in windowless spaces.

She installed nature-themed artworks at three university campuses and a hospital in Adelaide, measuring the mental wellbeing of participants beforehand, then surveyed changes in their mental fatigue and stress levels over the next month.

The results showed that viewing a landscape for brief periods (one to five minutes) cut stress and fatigue levels by up to 40 per cent.

“It’s all about a connection with nature,” she said.

“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.”

It is already established that experiencing nature not only focuses attention but also reduces mental fatigue, which, Ms Minuzzo said, affects workers for one to three hours every day.

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

“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,” she said.

“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.”