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The science of measuring an art : involuntary psychosomatic responses of office workers to the office environment quality.

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Twelve participants took part in a clinical trial to investigate whether the office environment quality, specifically the decor and interior design, causes stress in office workers. The stress was measured through psychosomatic responses, to gauge the real subconscious stress, rather than through questionnaires, which measure the conscious response to stress. The participants were office workers from the same administration building, but working in different fields. There were five black, three Indian and four white participants. The gender mix consisted of two female and ten male participants. The age spectrum ranged from 27 years to 55 years of age. Participants were requested to fast from midnight and present themselves early for the tests on two consecutive days. They were divided into two groups. The tests, using two different environment qualities, were presented in a counterbalanced order to the groups, with a control group remaining in the superior environment on both days. A superior environment of four star quality decor and interior design, and an inferior environment of half a star quality were used. From research by Wing et al. (1985), after ingesting a source of glucose, the peak glucose concentration in the plasma is delayed under stress. This was used as the psychosomatic test. Participants drank a solution containing 40 g of polycose, and were then subjected to identical mental stress tests in the different environments. Blood samples were taken at thirty minute intervals for two hours from drinking the polycose, and analysed for changes in glucose concentration. The differences in stress responses were calculated as delays in the time to glucose concentration peak, and analysed. The room factor was highly significant with F(6;15) = 6.620 (p=0.001 at a = 0.05). The day of testing was of much lower significance but still significant at F(6;15) = 3.402 (p=0.025 at a = 0.05). This was due to stress caused by the memory of the pain of repeated jabs with a needle, which would only be observed on the second day. (The time of the peak concentration occurred before the second blood samples were taken, which meant the stress caused by the anticipation of pain remembered was not observed on the first day.) After correcting for the stress effects on the second day due to testing, Tukey's Honestly Significantly Different test yielded two homogeneous subsets (out of a four subsets, which were a combination of the room and day factors). The two subsets were clearly divided by room, and not by day, this time. The subsets (rooms) were both highly significant, ranging from 0.609 to 1.00, for an alpha of 0.05. It was concluded, from causality tests and hypothesis testing, a high quality office environment causes a significantly lower stress response, while a poor quality office environment causes a significantly higher stress response. A model, correlating stress with the office environment, was developed for use by businesses.


Thesis (MBA)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2006.


Work environment., Office management., Theses--Business administration.