Glancing at a grassy green roof for only 40 seconds significantly boosts concentration levels, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

For the study, researchers gave 150 student participants a boring, attention-draining computer task. The students were told to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on the computer screen, unless that number was three.

Halfway through the task, the participants were given a 40-second break to look at a city rooftop scene. Half the group viewed a flowering meadow green roof, while the other half looked out onto a bare concrete roof.

After the break, students who had looked at the green roof made significantly fewer mistakes and demonstrated superior concentration on the second half of the task, compared to those who viewed the concrete roof.

The findings suggest that the green roof offered a restorative experience that boosted the part of the brain that controls attention, researchers concluded. Lead researcher Dr. Kate Lee, of the University of Melbourne Faculty of Science, said just a moment of green can provide a boost for tired workers.

“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,” said Lee.

“This study showed us that looking at an image of nature for less than a minute was all it took to help people perform better on our task.”

The study focused on micro-breaks, those short and informal breaks, which often occur spontaneously throughout the day.

“It’s really important to have micro-breaks. It’s something that a lot of us do naturally when we’re stressed or mentally fatigued,” added Lee. “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.”

“Certainly this study has implications for workplace well-being and adds extra impetus to continue greening our cities. 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.”

Future research will focus on whether looking at greenery at the workplace helps boost creativity and helpfulness.

The study findings are published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Source: University of Melbourne