Views of Grassy Rooftops Boost Concentration

Views of Grassy Rooftops Boost ConcentrationViews of Grassy Rooftops Boost Concentration

A new study of the effect of microbreaks on productivity finds that glancing at a grassy rooftop for only 40 seconds markedly boosts concentration on attention-sapping mental tasks.

Writing in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia describe an experiment where they tested the idea of attention restoration - where microbreaks lasting under a minute can boost concentration. They showed that glancing at a green and grassy city roof scene restores attention more effectively than if the view is of a concrete roof.

For the study, the team assessed the performance of 150 students carrying out a boring mental task in a city office block. The students had to watch a computer screen as a series of numbers flashed up and for each number press the corresponding key on the keyboard - unless it was the number three.

The students were given a 40-second “microbreak” in the middle of the task where they could look at a rooftop scene. For half of the students, the view was of a green flowering meadow rooftop. For the other half, the view was of a bare concrete roof.

The results showed that after their microbreak, compared with their peers who viewed the concrete rooftop, the students who glanced at the grassy rooftop made significantly fewer mistakes and showed better concentration in the second half of the boring task, Medical News Today reported.

Lead author Dr. Kate Lee, of the faculty of science at Melbourne, says the study shows just looking at an image of nature for under a minute can help us perform tasks more effectively. She adds: “We know that green roofs are great for the environment, but now we can say that they boost attention too. Imagine the impact that has for thousands of employees working in nearby offices.”

 Seeking Nature

Lee emphasizes the importance of microbreaks - short and informal breaks that happen spontaneously throughout the day: “It’s something that a lot of us do naturally when we’re stressed or mentally fatigued.”

“There’s a reason you look out the window and seek nature; it can help you concentrate on your work and to maintain performance across the workday,” she adds.

Lee says the findings deliver an important message about workplace well-being and should spur more greening in our cities. She concludes: “City planners around the world are switching on to these benefits of green roofs and we hope the future of our cities will be a very green one.”