Skip to main content

Naturally! Examining Nature’s Role in Workplace Strain Reduction

Abstract

In past literature, exposure to nature has been demonstrated to have beneficial, restorative effects on the human body and cognitions. Using a two-wave, full panel design, the present study takes an interdisciplinary approach to extend previous findings and to explore the relationship between exposure to nature at work and workplace strain outcomes. The Attention Restoration Theory was used to describe how nature exposure indirectly reduces strain, through increased employee attention. The sample (N = 176) consisted of full-time office employees, working in an urban setting in the United States. Results demonstrated significant relationships between workplace nature exposure, directed attention, and strain outcomes (burnout, job dissatisfaction, and depressive symptoms). Specifically, directed attention significantly mediated the association between nature exposure and all workplace strain outcomes. The findings of the study provide several practical and theoretical contributions to occupational health science through the consideration of increased exposure to nature as a new, additional job resource. Future research should consider the relevance of workplace nature exposure to stressor-strain theory and the incorporation of nature into stress management interventions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Akerstedt, T., Knutsson, A., Westerholm, P., Theorell, T., Alfredsson, L., & Kecklund, G. (2004). Mental fatigue, work and sleep. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57(5), 427–433.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Annerstedt, M., & Währborg, P. (2011). Nature-assisted therapy: Systematic review of controlled and observational studies. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 1403494810396400.

  • Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2007). The job demands-resources model: State of the art. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 22(3), 309–328.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2016). Job Demands–Resources Theory: Taking Stock and Looking Forward. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, No Pagination Specified. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000056.

  • Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207–1212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beyer, K. M. M., Kaltenbach, A., Szabo, A., Bogar, S., Nieto, F. J., & Malecki, K. M. (2014). Exposure to neighborhood green space and mental health: Evidence from the survey of the health of Wisconsin. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(3), 3453–3472. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph110303453.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Bonde, J. P. E. (2008). Psychosocial factors at work and risk of depression: A systematic review of the epidemiological evidence. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 65(7), 438–445. https://doi.org/10.1136/oem.2007.038430.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bossen, A. (2010). The importance of getting back to nature for people with dementia. Journal of Gerontological Nursing, 36(2), 17–22. https://doi.org/10.3928/00989134-20100111-01.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, J. P., Hahn, K. S., Daily, G. C., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(28), 8567–8572. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1510459112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bringslimark, T., Hartig, T., & Patil, G. G. (2007). Psychological benefits of indoor plants in workplaces: Putting experimental results into context. HortScience, 42(3), 581–587.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cammann, C., Fichman, M., Jenkins, D., & Klesh, J. (1979). The Michigan organizational assessment questionnaire. Unpublished manuscript, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

  • CDC. (2018, April 2). Work schedules: Shift work and long hours. Retrieved June 11, 2018, From https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workschedules/default.html.

  • Cimprich, B. (1993). Development of an intervention to restore attention in cancer patients. Cancer Nursing, 16(2), 83–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cimprich, B., Visovatti, M., & Ronis, D. L. (2011). The attentional function index—A self-report cognitive measure. Psycho-Oncology, 20(2), 194–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coley, R. L., Sullivan, W. C., & Kuo, F. E. (1997). Where does community grow? The social context created by nature in urban public housing. Environment and Behavior, 29(4), 468–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Vries, S., Verheij, R. A., Groenewegen, P. P., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2003). Natural environments—Healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health. Environment and Planning A, 35(10), 1717–1731.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Demerouti, E., Bakker, A., Nachreiner, F., & Ebbinghaus, M. (2002). From mental strain to burnout. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 11(4), 423–441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Demyttenaere, K., Bruffaerts, R., Posada-Villa, J., Gasquet, I., Kovess, V., Lepine, J., et al. (2004). Prevalence, severity, and unmet need for treatment of mental disorders in the World Health Organization world mental health surveys. Jama, 291(21), 2581–2590.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Diette, G. B., Lechtzin, N., Haponik, E., Devrotes, A., & Rubin, H. R. (2003). Distraction therapy with nature sights and sounds reduces pain during flexible bronchoscopy: A complementary approach to routine analgesia. Chest, 123(3), 941–948.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dormann, C., & Zapf, D. (2002). Social stressors at work, irritation, and depressive symptoms: Accounting for unmeasured third variables in a multi-wave study. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 75(1), 33–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dravigne, A., Waliczek, T. M., Lineberger, R. D., & Zajicek, J. M. (2008). The effect of live plants and window views of green spaces on employee perceptions of job satisfaction. HortScience, 43(1), 183–187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dye, C. (2008). Health and urban living. Science, 319(5864), 766–769.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Faber Taylor, A., & Kuo, F. E. M. (2011). Could exposure to everyday green spaces help treat ADHD? Evidence from children’s play settings. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), 281–303.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, J. S., & Blum, T. C. (2016). Assessing the non-random sampling effects of subject attrition in longitudinal research. Journal of Management, 22(4):627–652.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Griffin, J. A., Dember, W. N., & Warm, J. S. (1986). Effects of depression on expectancy in sustained attention. Motivation and Emotion, 10(3), 195–205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hakanen, J. J., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2012). Do burnout and work engagement predict depressive symptoms and life satisfaction? A three-wave seven-year prospective study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 141(2), 415–424. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2012.02.043.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Halbesleben, J. R. B., & Buckley, M. R. (2004). Burnout in organizational life. Journal of Management, 30(6), 859–879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jm.2004.06.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hartig, T. (1991). Linking health with nature experience: Restoration and other Pathways. Retrieved from http://share.bebif.be/data/phc/Keynote%20session/Presentation%20Hartig%2020111130.pdf.

  • Hartig, T., Mang, M., & Evans, G. W. (1991). Restorative effects of natural environment experiences. Environment and Behavior, 23(1), 3–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hartig, T., Mitchell, R., De Vries, S., & Frumkin, H. (2014). Nature and health. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, 207–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, A. F. (2013). Mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. Introduction to Mediation, Moderation, and Conditional Process Analysis: A Regression-Based Approach Edn. New York: Guilford Publications, 1–20.

  • Henne, D., & Locke, E. A. (1985). Job dissatisfaction: What are the consequences? International Journal of Psychology, 20(2), 221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jiang, B., Li, D., Larsen, L., & Sullivan, W. C. (2014). A dose-response curve describing the relationship between urban tree cover density and self-reported stress recovery. Environment and Behavior, 0013916514552321.

  • Judge, T. A., Thoresen, C. J., Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001). The job satisfaction–job performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin, 127(3), 376.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kals, E., Schumacher, D., & Montada, L. (2016). Emotional affinity toward nature as a motivational basis to protect nature. Environment and Behavior, 31(2), 178–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, R. (2001). The nature of the view from home psychological benefits. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 507–542.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. CUP Archive.

  • Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keniger, L. E., Gaston, K. J., Irvine, K. N., & Fuller, R. A. (2013). What are the benefits of interacting with nature? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10(3), 913–935. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10030913.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Khaleque, A., Hossain, M. M., & Hoque, M. E. (1992). Job satisfaction, mental health, fatigue and performance of industrial workers. Psychological Studies.

  • Korpela, K. M., Hartig, T., Kaiser, F. G., & Fuhrer, U. (2001). Restorative experience and self-regulation in favorite places. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 572–589.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2016). Aggression and violence in the inner city. Environment and Behavior, 33(4), 543–571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Largo-Wight, E., Chen, W. W., Dodd, V., & Weiler, R. (2011a). Healthy workplaces: The effects of nature contact at work on employee stress and health. Public Health Reports, 126(1 suppl), 124–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Largo-Wight, E., Chen, W. W., Dodd, V., & Weiler, R. (2011b). The nature contact questionnaire: A measure of healthy workplace exposure. Work, 40(4), 411–423.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Leiter, M. P., & Maslach, C. (1988). The impact of interpersonal environment on burnout and organizational commitment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 9(4), 297–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Litwiller, B., Snyder, L. A., Taylor, W. D., & Steele, L. M. (2017). The relationship between sleep and work: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(4), 682–699. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000169.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lottrup, L., Stigsdotter, U. K., Meilby, H., & Corazon, S. S. (2012). Associations between use, activities and characteristics of the outdoor environment at workplaces. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 11(2), 159–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lottrup, L., Grahn, P., & Stigsdotter, U. K. (2013). Workplace greenery and perceived level of stress: Benefits of access to a green outdoor environment at the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning, 110, 5–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lottrup, L., Stigsdotter, U. K., Meilby, H., & Claudi, A. G. (2015). The workplace window view: A determinant of office workers’ work ability and job satisfaction. Landscape Research, 40(1), 57–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lynn, S. J., Barnes, S., Deming, A., & Accardi, M. (2010). Hypnosis, rumination, and depression: Catalyzing attention and mindfulness-based treatments. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 58(2), 202–221. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207140903523244.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P., & St Leger, L. (2006). Healthy nature healthy people:‘contact with nature’as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promotion International, 21(1), 45–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W. B., & Leiter, M. P. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 397–422.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mitchell, R., & Popham, F. (2008). Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: An observational population study. The Lancet, 372(9650), 1655–1660.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nash, R. (1968). American environment; readings in the history of conservation.

  • Nisbet, E. K., Zelenski, J. M., & Murphy, S. A. (2008). The nature relatedness scale. Environment and Behavior, 41(5), 715–740.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Panagopoulos, T., González Duque, J. A., & Bostenaru Dan, M. (2016). Urban planning with respect to environmental quality and human well-being. Environmental Pollution, 208, 137–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2015.07.038.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Papageorgiou, C., & Wells, A. (2000). Treatment of recurrent major depression with attention training. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 7(4), 407–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Park, S.-H., & Mattson, R. H. (2009). Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(9), 975–980.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Poon, K.-T., Teng, F., Wong, W.-Y., & Chen, Z. (2016). When nature heals: Nature exposure moderates the relationship between ostracism and aggression. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 48, 159–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.10.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, L. W., Steers, R. M., Mowday, R. T., & Boulian, P. V. (1974). Organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and turnover among psychiatric technicians. Journal of Applied Psychology, 59(5), 603–609. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0037335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40(3), 879–891.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raanaas, R. K., Evensen, K. H., Rich, D., Sjøstrøm, G., & Patil, G. (2011). Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31(1), 99–105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robinson, S. L., O’Reilly, J., & Wang, W. (2013). Invisible at work: An integrated model of workplace ostracism. Journal of Management, 39(1), 203–231. https://doi.org/10.1177/0149206312466141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salyers, M. P., Hudson, C., Morse, G., Rollins, A. L., Monroe-DeVita, M., Wilson, C., & Freeland, L. (2011). BREATHE: A pilot study of a one-day retreat to reduce burnout among mental health professionals. Psychiatric Services, 62(2), 214–217.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schaufeli, W. B., Leiter, M. P., & Kalimo, R. (1995). The General Burnout Inventory: A self-report questionnaire to assess burnout at the workplace. In Work, Stress and Health (Vol. 95, pp. 14–16).

  • Smith, B. (2013). Depression and motivation. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 615–635. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11097-012-9264-0.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Soderlund, J., & Newman, P. (2015). Biophilic architecture: A review of the rationale and outcomes. AIMS Environmental Science, 2(4), 950–969. https://doi.org/10.3934/environsci.2015.4.950.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sop Shin, W. (2007). The influence of forest view through a window on job satisfaction and job stress. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 22(3), 248–253.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E. (1999). Objective versus subjective approaches to the study of job stress. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(5), 737–737.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E. (2016). Method variance in organizational research. Organizational Research Methods, 9(2), 221–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Taris, T. W., & Kompier, M. (2003). Challenges in longitudinal designs in occupational health psychology. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 1–4.

  • Taylor, A. F., Kuo, F. E., & Sullivan, W. C. (2001). Coping with add: The surprising connection to green play settings. Environment and Behavior, 33(1), 54–77. https://doi.org/10.1177/00139160121972864.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tennessen, C. M., & Cimprich, B. (1995). Views to nature: Effects on attention. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(1), 77–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thackray, R. I., Powell Bailey, J., & Mark Touchstone, R. (2007). The effect of increased monitoring load on vigilance performance using a simulated radar display. Ergonomics, 22(5), 529–539.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Theorell, T., Hammarström, A., Aronsson, G., Träskman Bendz, L., Grape, T., Hogstedt, C., et al. (2015). A systematic review including meta-analysis of work environment and depressive symptoms. BMC Public Health, 15(738). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-1954-4.

  • Tse, M. M. Y., Ng, J. K. F., Chung, J. W. Y., & Wong, T. K. S. (2002). The effect of visual stimuli on pain threshold and tolerance. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 11(4), 462–469. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2702.2002.00608.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery. Science, 224(4647), 224–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ulrich, R. S. (1979). Visual landscapes and psychological well-being. Landscape Research, 4(1), 17–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/01426397908705892.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • van Dillen, S. M. E., de Vries, S., Groenewegen, P. P., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2012). Greenspace in urban neighbourhoods and residents’ health: Adding quality to quantity. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 66(6), e8–e8. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.2009.104695.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Velarde, M. D., Fry, G., & Tveit, M. (2007). Health effects of viewing landscapes – Landscape types in environmental psychology. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), 199–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ufug.2007.07.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wells, N. M., & Evans, G. W. (2003). Nearby nature a buffer of life stress among rural children. Environment and Behavior, 35(3), 311–330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/ National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) through the Sunshine Education and Research Center (ERC) at USF (5T42OH008438-13). The views and opinions in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of NIOSH nor USF.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arieana Thompson.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations of variables
Table 2 Directed attention as a mediator of the nature at work – strain relationship

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Thompson, A., Bruk-Lee, V. Naturally! Examining Nature’s Role in Workplace Strain Reduction. Occup Health Sci 3, 23–43 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41542-019-00033-5

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41542-019-00033-5

Keywords

  • Nature
  • Occupational stress
  • Organizational context
  • Job resources