Lauren Becknell, B.S. Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology; Dr. Kimberly French, Ph.D. Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology

This study aims to 1) establish a relationship between natural interaction and both burnout and well-being; 2) explore differences between interacting with greenspace versus virtual nature regarding burnout and well-being; 3) investigate the influence of physical activity on the relationship between natural interaction and burnout/well being.

Burnout research supports a negative impact on working people’s psychological and physiological health, and it typically manifests from prolonged work strain. There is growing research supporting interacting with natural environments can facilitate restoration and work-stress recovery through decreasing negative feelings associated with acute stress and lowering the physiological effects of arousal.

Participants (N=48) completed a survey measuring preexisting burnout and well-being measures; after completing the survey, they were randomly assigned to either participate in a greenspace or virtual natural environment for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for one week while completing daily diary surveys reflecting on their experience. After one week of natural interaction, participants retook the survey. The data has been collected and analyses are complete.

Participants in both conditions exhibited lower mean burnout after one week of natural interaction. Condition (greenspace or virtual) and physical activity did not have significant influences on burnout and well-being levels.

These results support that interacting with nature can facilitate positive changes in working student burnout levels, establishing natural interaction as a viable tool for burnout intervention programs. This is the first study that explores the relationship between burnout and natural interactions. Because this foundational link is supported by the results, future studies can apply this finding to future research investigating further technicalities and causes of nature decreasing burnout. Some limitations include no true control as the study implemented two treatment conditions. The data support the research that natural interactions facilitates positive influences on working people.

This study’s results show lowered burnout levels after one week of natural interaction. This leads to the idea that using both physical and virtual nature can be used as a means to detach from work, provide opportunities for increased physical activity, and facilitate improved psychological health. The data found in the study support the trend that interacting with nature has positive impacts, providing a foundation for future research to elaborate upon in order to provide an accessible burnout intervention strategy to improve physical and psychological wellness in working people.

Tags: Applicable to all occupations/industries, Applied research, Basic research, Comprehensive Approaches to Healthy Work Design and Well-Being, Health care and social assistance, Interventions in the Workplace, Research and Intervention Methods