There is no doubt about it that office spaces are more pleasing with the addition of a little greenery here and there. But our office plants really beneficial to the general work environment?
Businesses have long been looking for ways to increase productivity and focus in the workplace when it comes to reducing decorative aspects in order to make an office more efficient. However, a recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association proved different.
Recently three different field tests conducted in the UK and the Netherlands revealed a 15% increase in productivity with the addition of just a few plants in the work environment. The study is set to continue over the next few months and hopes to prove that the minimalist approach to office decor can negatively impact employee satisfaction and productivity.1
Many other studies have been conducted into the various benefits of office plants. These benefits include:
The field of color psychology proposes that the color green has a calming and relaxing effect on the human psyche. A study conducted by the University of Technology in Sydney found that removing office plants increased stress levels by anywhere between 20% and 40%, opposed to having a plant or two added, which then reduced stress by 30% to 60%. Reducing stress means happier, healthier and therefore more productive employees.2
Offices that are devoid of plants show a higher rate of illness in employees and more often have employees who suffer from “sick building syndrome”. This syndrome is associated with symptoms like headaches, nasal congestion, sore throat, etc, that only appear when a person is in a certain building. This is not a psychosomatic condition, but a very real problem that exists and can negatively impact the productivity of employees.
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There is a very scientific reason why office plants can reduce illness in the workplace. Plants clean and purify the air and increase humidity in office environments that can be very dry due to air conditioning and ventilation systems which are both conducive to better health and wellbeing. Studies have reported that workers who have an office plant on their desk report an increase of 15% in their well-being score.
A noisy office environment negatively impacts productivity and can increase stress levels. Placing potted plants in strategic areas, like in corners and along walls, can help absorb sound, therefore, reducing noise levels in the general environment. More plants of a larger variety have been shown to provide greater sound reduction benefits in an office environment.
The Human Spaces report that was released in 2015 after a study conducted into the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in workplaces found that the introduction of natural elements into an office space can increase creativity by up to 15%.3 Simply looking at an office plant can change the way that the mind functions allowing for a greater scope in creativity.
Increased Focus And Concentration
Attention Restoration Theory has found that natural elements help reduce fatigue related to directed attention, therefore, increasing the ability to focus and concentrate in a work environment. In fact, plants which are characteristic of nature, have one of the greatest effects on restoring attention. The theory also shows the benefits of a more relaxed state of mind induced by nature having greater attention restoration benefits.4
All of these factors, plus some others, have a proven impact on productivity in the workplace, while different studies also show an increase of between 6% and 15%.
The benefits of nature in the workplace can also be found in ancient traditions and cultures which have become popularized in the modern day. For example, Feng Shui has long lauded the use of plants and nature to promote health, wealth, and wellbeing. The slightly lesser known Japanese “Shinrin Yoku” or forest therapy, also offers an explanation as to why office plants have such a positive impact in a work environment.
What Does Feng Shui Say?
There are five elements to the practice of Feng Shui which must be brought into balance – Fire, Water, Earth, Metal, and Wood. Plants are significant in the wood category and provide greater learning, concentration, relaxation, memory retention, and communication – all of which are essential in a working environment.
Feng Shui is also all about pure, clean air and plants fulfill this function. Of course strategic placement of plants is also important to the Feng Shui principles as are the species and size of the plants that are chosen for the office. Most commonly, bamboo is a great choice for an office as are snake plants, English ivy, and aloe plants.
What Does Forest Therapy Say?
Forest Therapy, also known as Forest Bathing, has been practiced for centuries in Japan and consists of immersing a person in a natural environment such as a forest on a regular basis. This form of therapy is quickly becoming popular in the Western World as a means to relieve stress, improve health, and improve overall well being.
This is due to scientific studies that are showing that people who live in rural communities are happier than those living in urban environments. These studies have directly related the lack of exposure to plants as one of the reasons for this difference.
Plants produce terpenes, or secondary metabolites, which have been related to how they grow, defend themselves and basically get along with one another. These terpenes also seem to impact human beings and being exposed to secondary metabolites, has a proven effect on their overall wellbeing.
Introducing plants to an office environment also introduces these secondary metabolites to employees who can benefit from the stress relieving, relaxing, healing, and other benefits that are associated with terpenes.
However, this does not mean that it is necessary to turn an office into a forest in order to get all these benefits. Plants should be selected according to scale and species to compliment an office space.
The sounds, smells, and feel of nature in an office not only has a great number of benefits in increasing employee productivity but simply creates a more pleasing work environment.