September 11th, 2019

// Displaying art in workplaces can reduce stress levels and mental fatigue by up to 40 per cent, a South Australian study has shown.

Displaying art in workplaces can reduce stress levels and mental fatigue by up to 40 per cent, a South Australian study has shown.

University of South Australia researcher Bridgette Minuzzo has shown how artworks in offices can reduce stress.

The three-year study by University of South Australia researcher Bridgette Minuzzo involved 91 people across 18 work sites where there were no windows or direct views of nature. It included offices at three university campuses, a student breakout space and workstations in a busy Adelaide hospital.

The mental wellbeing of participants was measured before each trial with changes in their mental fatigue and stress levels surveyed over the next month.

Minuzzo said previous research showed that access to experiencing nature – even through a window – reduced stress but she wanted to test if artworks could have a similar effect.

She said her research differed from previous attention restoration studies that were usually set in a simulated environment such as an office in a lab with simulated work tasks and views.

“I also used original artworks because my focus was particularly on looking at how people might engage with an artistic representation of a view and how that might differ from having a window,” the PhD student said.

“There’s also a lot of spaces in cities where you might have a window but the view will be into a corridor or a neighbouring building or road.

“We can’t easily change those places but you can introduce something into that environment very easily that can help bring about a 20 to 40 per cent reduction in stress and mental fatigue.

“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.”

Minuzzo is also an Adelaide-based visual artist with more than 20 years’ public art experience and painted the landscapes for the study herself.

She worked with a neuroscientist on the project to examine the intricacies of what happens when we are looking at nature or a realistic artistic representation of it.

Her studies found that viewing a landscape painting for as little as one to five minutes cut stress and fatigue levels.

“We all have a lunch break and a coffee break but we’ve got hours between them when we’re just sitting there and our work focus tires after 25-55 minutes,” Minuzzo said.

“If you’ve got lack of sleep, deadlines, workplace restructures and all these other stressors, sometimes you need your working brain to rest for a bit and one minute is enough for you to rejuvenate a tired working brain.”

Some of the paintings used in the study were circular, providing portal views to the natural world, while others were more ...

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