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Guide to Environmental Psychology

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 19 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Environmental Psychology Building Design

Defintion: Environmental psychology is about the way people relate to the environment. Some of the work in this field concerns natural environments and educational environments. But it also deals with the way a work environment can affect human behaviour.

Building Design

The design of a building can have an influence on the daily effectiveness of employees. A crowded workplace can give rise to stress. In practice, though, giving workers extra space can be expensive when a company rents a property by the square foot. But there are other ways to Reduce Stress. Environmental psychologists have identified key elements of building design that may improve workers’ sense of well-being:

Windows and Air Conditioning

The first such element is windows. Windows provide light and views. Both of these factors can boost and maintain workers’ morale.

If a building has air-conditioning, there’s a need to keep windows closed. Many people in an office, however, like to open windows to let in natural air. In other words, they welcome the air-conditioning but object to the closed windows. There isn’t always an easy answer to this difficulty. But employers should search for a compromise.

High Ceilings

High ceilings give employees a greater sense of space and comfort. A modern building with high ceilings is likely to cost more to rent and maintain than one with standard ceiling height. Nonetheless, employers should consider the benefits high ceilings can bring.

The Shape of Rooms

Researchers working in environmental psychology have shown that most workers prefer square rooms to those that are rectangular. If an employer has a chance to choose the design of an office, then square rooms may be the best option.

Existing Buildings

Environmental psychologists recognise, of course, that most employers are not in a position to design suitable premises or move. So they’ve produced some practical ideas for existing spaces. Employers can use partitions, for instance. These give office workers their own territories. And with these comes a greater sense of control and motivation.

Above all, partitions give privacy. And employers can add to this by allowing workers as much sway over their personal spaces as possible. Employees should have personal control of lighting and ventilation, for example.

Finally, although this runs counter to the principle of an open plan office, employers should think about the use of doors. Doors don’t only provide privacy. They’re a symbol of access and control. It may be possible, for instance, to set up an office that uses partitions that extend from the ceiling to the floor. These can then have doors.

Personal Space

The above suggestions stem from what environmental psychologists call personal space. Another term they use is defensible space. The theory is that people prefer to have their own territory in which they can work. Such an approach helps them focus on the jobs they have to do. This in turn leads to greater employee effectiveness.

Other Uses

Other principles underpin the use of environmental psychology in the retail and commercial worlds. Put simply, the shape, size, colour and lighting of a building can influence the way people spend money.

This is why many architects of retail buildings now take account of environmental psychology and its effect on their work.

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