Research published in Human Factors confirms that interruptions while working have a negative effect on performance. Foroughi, Werner, Nelson, and Boehm-Davis report that “the typical employee in an office environment is interrupted up to six times per hour.” Foroughi and his team linked interruptions to lower quality work: “Two groups of participants were given time to outline and write an essay on an assigned topic. One group was interrupted multiple times with an unrelated task, and a control group had no interruptions.
People designing spaces where older adults can be expected to do cognitive work, for example, fill out medical forms, must make certain those areas are free of sensory distractions. A team from Rice and Johns Hopkins reports that “Older people are nearly twice as likely as their younger counterparts to have their memory and cognitive processes impaired by environmental distractions.” Two groups of people participated in this study; a set whose average age was 21 (with individual ages ranging from 18 to 32) and another with an average age of 71 (ranging between 64 and 82).
A research team at the University of Exeter confirmed that gardens can enrich the lives of people with dementia. Whear and her team report that they learned via a literature review that “gardens in care homes could provide promising therapeutic benefits for patients suffering from dementia. . . . outdoor spaces can offer environments that promote relaxation, encourage activity and reduce residents' agitation. . . .
Wang and her colleagues have learned that people of all ages often overestimate the amount of information they can gather via vision. As the researchers state, “Humans gain a wide range of knowledge through interacting with the environment. Each aspect of our perceptual experiences offers a unique source of information about the world-colours are seen, sounds heard and textures felt. . . .
Taste-related words have a special influence on the way that we think. This research finding may be useful to designers as they plan discussions with clients and each other and may also foreshadow future findings from studies focused on other sensory experiences. A team of scientists from Princeton and the Free University of Berlin have learned that “taste-related metaphors such as ‘sweet’ actually engage the emotional centers of the brain more than literal words such as ‘kind’ that have the same meaning.”
Halin and his team have learned that there is a relationship between how hard it is to read a font and how easily people are distracted in a noisy environment while reading a message printed in that font. The researchers had “Participants read, either in quiet or with a speech noise background, texts that were displayed either in an easy-to-read or a hard-to-read font.” They learned that “Background speech impaired prose recall, but only when the text was displayed in the easy-to-read font.
Finnish researchers have determined that noise made by nearby workers has a persistent negative effect on individual performance. This issue is important because, as the Finnish team states, even “Unattended [not noticed] background speech is a known source of cognitive and subjective distraction in open-plan offices.” In the course of the study directed by Haapakangas, “four acoustic conditions were physically built. Three conditions contained background speech. A quiet condition was included for comparison.
Some workplace design strategies are based on the assumption that everyone can work successfully outside the office. A research team lead by O’Neill at the University of Calgary indicates that all workers are not psychologically suited for telework, at least not without training to deal with personality related issues. O’Neill and his colleagues learned that “telework technology doesn’t guarantee productivity from every off-site employee. . . .
Cooler or warmer makes a clear difference.
Value of green views explained.