Designing environments for a stressful and traumatic workplace culture: a case study in a mental institution



Interior & Furniture Design


  • health

The mental and physical working context in which mental health‐care providers spend  most of their day is an  extremely stressful environment, specifically with regards to mental and physical well‐being. This environment is shaped by a number of influences such as job demands, patient related stresses  and political and economic pressures. All of these factors may eventually result in high levels of  staff burnout, decreased work efficacy and increased overall stress.

The primary objective of  this study was to facilitate wellness enhancement amongst mental health‐care providers in a  psychiatric hospital by manipulating the visual lived environment through the introduction of  colour landscape photographs with an emphasis on physical positioning and content. However, this  article interrogates specifically the photographic choices and response to them  in the selected environment. A qualitative analysis focussed on positioning with  written participant feedback, indicating that  ‘the photos add new dimension and depth to the ward’ and ‘loved the photo’s in the passage by the  entrance of the ward’.

A Likert scale survey questionnaire was used to assess  feedback with regards content. A quantitative analysis of the survey results indicated an  overall improved photographic image and placement perceptual preference within the lived  environment. Measured experiences under the headings of ‘don’t like’,  ‘acceptable’ and ‘like a lot’ have increased between the two installations for the  following content categories:  ‘veldt and trees’ +2%, ‘autumn’ +13% and ‘colourful flowers’ +4%. A ‘waterfalls’ category was  introduced in the second installation with a ‘like’ score of 82%. The ‘leaves and autumn’ category  remained the same, with ‘trees and desert’ scoring lower in the second iteration by 10% and 14%  respectively.

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