Last week we let you know that placing some potted plants around the office could pave the way to happier and more productive workers. While most people would welcome a little more life in their cubicle, Arizona State University researchers Naomi Mandel and Stephen M. Nowlis have a prescription for workplace wellbeing that might prove less popular: No more office pools.
Pools are a mainstay of offices everywhere, whether they’re based around choosing the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament or the TV show Survivor. But the researchers say it’s not just good clean fun—more often than not, the competition leads to hurt feelings. Even though many people fill out March Madness brackets without ever having seen most of the teams play, Mandel and Nowlis say pool participants make an emotional investment in their picks. Nobody wants to look stupid, and more than that, nobody wants their coworkers to mock their poor predictions.
Say the words “office decor,” and you may evoke images of mustard-fluorescent lighting, beige carpets, and windowless walls. But finding happiness in the aesthetic wasteland of cubicles may be as simple as adding a little greenery.
In a survey of office workers in Texas and the Midwest, Dr. Tina Marie Cade, an associate professor of Horticulture at Texas State University, discovered that employees who worked in offices with either green plants or windows offering views of green spaces felt better about their jobs and the work they performed (and therefore, presumably, performed more of it).
Given that the ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field comes in pretty handy for pigeons, it’s worth asking: Can humans sense it too? Oleg Shumilov of Russia’s Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems set out to answer this question, as Catherine Brahic reports in the New Scientist. After examining the planet’s geomagnetic field activity from 1948 to 1997, he found that it peaked consistently three times a year: March through May, July, and October. A little cross-checking on the data revealed that those time periods coincided with the peaks in the number of suicides in Kirovsk, a city of around 30,000 people in the cold depths of northern Russia.
Thanks to the handy rule of correlation vs. causation, Shumilov’s discovery is a long way from providing definitive evidence that human sensitivity to magnetic field activity equals greater numbers of suicides at certain times.