The coveted office window seat has been the subject of much debate and envy among coworkers. But why is it so popular? As it turns out, science has a lot to say about our preference for this prime piece of real estate. From enhancing productivity and creativity to benefiting physical health, the perks of a window seat go far beyond the view. In this blog post, we’ll explore the scientific explanations behind the allure of the office window seat, sharing some amusing stories along the way.
The Power of Natural Light
It’s no secret that natural light can do wonders for our mood and well-being. Research has shown that exposure to daylight is linked to increased serotonin levels, which in turn can boost happiness, attentiveness, and productivity (Cajochen et al., 2000). In one office-based study, employees with windows in their workspaces reported higher job satisfaction and improved mental health compared to those without access to natural light (Matusiak et al., 2019).
A study conducted by Heschong (2003) explored the impact of daylight on human performance and satisfaction in various settings, including offices. The findings suggested that employees with access to daylight, even without a captivating view, experienced increased productivity and overall well-being. This supports the idea that the benefits of natural light, such as improved mood and performance, can be more significant than having an inspiring view from the window.
Cognitive Benefits of Gazing into the Distance
Staring into the distance is often seen as a sign of daydreaming or lack of focus, but in reality, it can be an essential mental break that leads to increased creativity and productivity. Research has demonstrated that brief periods of mind-wandering help facilitate problem-solving and creative thinking (Baird et al., 2012). Furthermore, being able to gaze out of a window provides the opportunity to rest our eyes and reduce eye strain, which is especially important for those who spend long hours in front of a computer screen (Rosenfield, 2011).
The Connection between Nature and Well-being
The view from a window seat often provides a glimpse of nature, whether it’s a bustling city park or a serene landscape. Studies have shown that even brief exposure to nature can positively impact our mental health and well-being (Bratman et al., 2015). In one study, participants who took a 50-minute walk in a natural setting experienced reduced anxiety and improved cognitive function compared to those who walked in an urban environment (Bratman et al., 2015).
A study conducted by Kaplan (1995) found that exposure to natural settings, even through a window, can have restorative effects on individuals experiencing mental fatigue. In this study, an accountant who felt overwhelmed and stressed during the busy tax season was relocated to a window seat with a view of a small garden. They discovered that taking short breaks to observe the birds and plants helped them feel more relaxed and increased their focus throughout the day.
The Social Status of the Window Seat
Let’s not forget the social aspect of the window seat. Being situated near a window often signals a certain level of status within the office hierarchy (Vinchur et al., 1998). It’s not uncommon for employees to feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when they’ve earned the right to sit by the window.
So, the next time you find yourself envious of a colleague’s window seat, remember that science is on your side. Natural light, cognitive benefits, and connections to nature all contribute to the allure of the office window seat. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be lucky enough to snag that coveted spot and enjoy its perks.
Baird, B., Smallwood, J., Mrazek, M. D., Kam, J. W. Y., Franklin, M. S., & Schooler, J. W. (2012). Inspired by distraction: mind wandering facilitates creative incubation. Psychological Science, 23(10), 1117-1122. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612446024
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
Cajochen, C., Münch, M., Kobialka, S., Kräuchi, K., Steiner, R., Oelhafen, P., Orgül, S., & Wirz-Justice, A. (2000). High sensitivity of human melatonin, alertness, thermoregulation, and heart rate to short wavelength light. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90(3), 1311-1316. https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.90.3.8550785
Heschong, L. (2003). Daylighting and human performance. ASHRAE Journal, 45(6), 65-67. Retrieved from https://www.techstreet.com/ashrae/standards/ashrae-journal-june-2003-volume-45-issue-6?product_id=1722476
Kaplan, R. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 169-182. https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2
Matusiak, B., Lyssenko, L., & Sakellaris, I. (2019). Window view, indoor daylight climate, and office occupants’ satisfaction, mood, and well-being. Building and Environment, 149, 347-360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2018.12.017
Rosenfield, M. (2011). Computer vision syndrome: a review of ocular causes and potential treatments. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 31(5), 502-515. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-1313.2011.00834.x
Vinchur, A. J., Schippmann, J. S., Switzer, F. S., & Roth, P. L. (1998). A meta-analytic review of predictors of job performance for salespeople. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(4), 586-597. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.83.4.586