Stress and Resiliency
How does the indoor environment contribute to stress? What factors can reduce stress and increase resilience?

The basis for the research theme

Stress is how the body reacts to demands of life. It’s a normal physical and psychological reaction, and while people often consider stress as negative, a little bit of stress can be positive, helping you to boost your productivity or move forward successfully. However, stress sustained over a long period can be damaging to your physical and mental health.

When a person experiences a stressful event, the body reacts by activating the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, triggering a cascade of reactions that results in the acceleration of the body’s functions, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, following the release of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone.

Chronic stress can have serious physical and mental health implications, including hypertension, heart problems and depression. It also can result in significant economic repercussions for employees and employers. Research suggests that the physical environment also can contribute to employee stress, particularly sound, temperature and light. Likewise, environment factors also may support resiliency.

Resiliency encompasses adaptability, being able to rebound and move forward. It’s a form of stress management that helps you reduce anxiety and recover. Resiliency is not about erasing setbacks and difficulties, it is about working through them, gaining strength to go on. Resilient people can alleviate stress before it results in serious health consequences.

Desired outcomes from our studies

It’s impossible to eliminate stress in our lives, but we want to be able to help people be aware of their stress levels at work, and we are studying noninvasive ways to monitor stress that can be done to reduce needle sticks for blood tests. This involves finding biometric indicators and behavioral responses that can be accurately and continuously measured.

We also want to understand and identify factors in the physical environment that contribute to stress so we can help identify environmental and policy-based interventions to help alleviate stress.

Well Living Lab research studies

  • Acoustic, lighting and thermal conditions in offices and their effects on the health and wellness of adult office workers (ALTCO)
  • Environmental conditions and occupant satisfaction in the workplace: a controlled study in a living lab
  • Impact of daylight and view on performance and productivity
  • Impact of blue-enriched white light on performance and sleep quality
  • Impact of dynamic LED lighting on the well-being and experience of office occupants
  • Sleep quality and microclimates
  • Indoor air quality in subways/skyways
  • Biophilic office design
  • Evaluation of the feasibility of using sensor data-streams and salivary cortisol measurements for the detection of high and low levels of mental stress
  • Aroma dispersion pilot
  • Evaluation of Well Living Lab research capabilities for conducting scent-related research