ROCHESTER,
Minn. — New research from the Well Living Lab, a Delos™ and Mayo Clinic
collaboration, shows that office areas with windows, which provide people with
natural light and views of the outdoors, improve workers’ cognitive performance
and satisfaction with their office environment. Modern shading and glass
tinting techniques can mitigate eyestrain, reducing discomfort from daylight glare.

These
findings are published in the November volume of Building and
Environment.

The study was conducted by researchers from the fields of environmental, health
and behavioral science.

As part of the study, participants moved into in a simulated office setting matching their regular office cubicles. There, they went about their normal work activities for 14 weeks while environment and behavior were monitored. They brought their personal artifacts and work tools with them.

The
simulated office space had east- and north-facing windows, and all participants
sat an equal distance from the windows. Every two weeks, participants were
exposed to a different window condition: mesh shades, dynamically tinted
windows or blackout shades to remove daylight and view. The dynamic tinting
windows used an algorithm to automatically adjust to darker tints in the mornings
to prevent daylight glare and returned to a state that was not tinted by
midday. Participants could adjust the mesh shade height and window tinting
amounts to their preference. All other conditions, such as electric lighting,
temperature, humidity and ventilation, were consistently maintained.

Three
aspects of cognitive function were measured daily: working memory, inhibition
and task switching. Eye health, including eyestrain, fatigue, irritability,
focus and blurred vision, were evaluated by a questionnaire. The employees also
reported their satisfaction with their office environment, such as their
reactions to the workspace overall, and lighting for computer- and paper-based
work.

Cognitive function improved when participants had access to daylight and view in their office area. Specifically, their ability to hold and manipulate items in memory and their ability to inhibit responses increased. Task switching was not affected by the various study conditions. Both the mesh shading and dynamic tinting resulted in the same degree of improved cognitive performance, compared to blackout conditions. Eyestrain also lessened when employees had access to daylight and view from the windows, with no difference between the two types of shading. Environmental satisfaction also improved with window access.

When
the workspace had the windows blacked out, the No. 1 change that employees
wanted was window access. When they experienced mesh shades and dynamic
tinting, their top desired improvement varied from noise to temperature to
privacy.

“We’ve added to the growing evidence that the ability to see the outdoors has a positive impact,” says Brent Bauer, M.D., medical director of the Well Living Lab and principal investigator on the study for Mayo Clinic. “Other studies have shown access to daylight and views reduces stress, improves mood and lowers absenteeism from work — and even that employees make fewer mistakes. Additional studies can build upon these findings to help complete the picture that is emerging: that windows are good for us.”

The
Well Living Lab recognizes that not everyone with an office job can have access
to daylight and views, and offers these tips:

  • Bring
    nature inside, such as plants or a water feature. Decorate with nature scenes,
    such as photos and paintings, screen savers and cutouts from magazines.
  • Use
    natural elements in the design of the workspace, including wood and stone.
  • Listen
    to nature recordings on your headset or stream videos showing woods, lakes,
    flowers or other elements of nature that you find enjoyable.
  • Use
    breaks to walk outside.

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About the Well Living Lab
The Well Living Lab, a collaboration of Delos™ and Mayo Clinic, is dedicated to identifying how indoor environments affect human health and well-being. It conducts scientific research with human subjects in a simulated real-world environment and shares practical findings that can be applied to improving indoor spaces where people spent approximately 90% of their time. The lab has 5,500 square feet of sensor-rich, reconfigurable space in downtown Rochester. Learn more.

About Delos™
Delos is a wellness real estate and technology company guided by the mission to be the world’s leading catalyst for improving the health and well-being of people around the world by improving the indoor environments where they live, work, sleep and play.  Informed by more than seven years of research and rigorous analysis of environmental health impacts on people, Delos and its subsidiaries offer an array of evidence-based technology and solutions for residential and commercial spaces.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news and An Inside Look at Mayo Clinic for more information about Mayo.

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