ART in Today's Work Environment

Presented by: Denise McAllister Wilder and Wendy Hynes

The purpose of this poster presentation is to revisit the Attention Restoration Theory and consider how changes in the work force and the work environment can benefit from recent findings.  This graphic demonstration summarizes contemporary outcomes and explores different variables which can be incorporated in the contemporary workspace to create a restorative experience and allow a worker to return to the task at hand with renewed vigor.   

Twenty five years after Rachel and Stephen Kaplan first introduced the Attention Restoration Theory (ART) in their book, “The experience of nature: A psychological perspective”, (Rachel Kaplan, 1989) significant changes in the work environment are creating renewed interest in how designers can support attention restoration.    ART explores the cognitive benefits nature provides to renew attention after exerting mental energy.  (Kaplan, 2001)

Corporate wellness programs of all shapes and sizes are being adopted in hopes of improving the wellbeing of employees.   Enhancing employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity are just a few of the benefits sought.   Environmental conditions such as noise, lighting, and air quality are also becoming an increasing component of a healthy workplace and are thought to affect a workers ability to focus on a given task.  

This proposed presentation responds to several new developments while respecting the validity of the original research released by the Kaplans in 1989.  The poster will provide a graphic literature review of recent studies and present a potential workspace layout designed to support the evolution reinforcing individual workers efforts to maximize their attention restoration.  Behavior and technical support not previously available is now prevalent; we will demonstrate how a work space can be effectively designed to support such endeavors. 

Notably, changes in the work environment support individuality and personal accountability in ways the traditional work space did not.  By structuring a contemporary work space to maximize a worker’s ability to take responsibility for his or her own attention restoration, focus can be achieved without having to retreat from the workplace, either physically or mentally. (Charlotte Fritz, 2011) Research in environmental psychology clearly indicates people’s longings for interaction with elements of nature assists in psychological restoration. (Berto, 2005) However, this interaction does not have to be in the form of physically departing from work and wandering around outside.  (Charlotte Fritz, 2011)While many repetitive tasks can certainly be depleting, it is also possible to structure activities in the contemporary work place to become restorative instead.  (Kathryn H. Dekas, 2013) Each individual worker can take an active role in the recovery of their personal directed attention capacity by tailoring restorative activity to their needs and preferences without physically escaping their work space.  The planned space will enhance the effect of restorative opportunities while empowering the individual worker.


  • Berto, R. (2005). Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 249-259.
  • Charlotte Fritz, C. F. (2011). It's the little things that matter: an examination of knowledge workers' energy management. Academy of Management Journal.
  • Kaplan, S. (2001). Meditation, restoration, and the management of mental fatique. Environment & Behavior, 480-506.
  • Kathryn H. Dekas, T. N. (2013). Organizational citizenship behavior, version 2.0: a review and qualitative investigation of OCBs for knowledge workers at Google and beyond. Academy of Management Journal, 219-237.
  • Rachel Kaplan, S. K. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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