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Photo of John Lee
June 4, 2020

Lee to test effects of virtual reality nature experiences

Written By: Tom Ziemer

Research into the characteristics of work performed while riding in an automated vehicle is surprisingly relevant to the current large-scale shift to remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both situations involve completing tasks away from the office and coworkers, as well as time-sensitive interruptions such as the need to take the wheel or care for children. And improving employee well-being in a non-traditional work setup holds considerable benefit, particularly against the backdrop of a stress-inducing global pandemic.

John Lee, the Emerson Electric Quality and Productivity Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has received a National Science Foundation grant—a COVID-19-related supplement to an existing project looking at productivity and safety in automated vehicles—to test the effects of one wellness intervention on people working from home.

Building upon established research on the benefits of exposure to nature—even through sounds and images—on health, wellness and creativity, Lee will examine the effects of experiencing nature through virtual reality. Workers will use an Oculus Go virtual reality headset for two 10-minute sessions a day, and Lee will test and analyze their wellness and creative problem-solving.

Lee studies human factors engineering, with a particular focus on the design of technology and interfaces.