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Benefits of Plants in the Workplace

Businesses have long realized that the physical environment directly affects an employee's ability to work. Now businesses are realizing that interior plants are a natural and vital part of a productive workplace.

The majority of Fortune 500 Companies have landscaped their office interiors - boosting morale, building employee contentment and promoting productivity.

It’s not surprising that studies both in the United States and Europe have shown that people find peace in well-maintained interior landscaping. In addition to enhancing the image and ambience of a building, plants also improve air quality and reduce noise levels. NASA tests have shown that plants can even improve productivity and reduce symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome.

... businesses realize that amenities such as office plants are methods of attracting and retaining high quality employees.

— Dana Parker, Longwood Gardens research fellow, in article The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-Being and Social Development

Contemporary buildings are sealed tightly to increase HVAC efficiency. Inside those sealed environments, man-made articles such as paints, plastics, insulation, plywood, carpets, synthetic fibers and detergents emit up to 300 harmful pollutants.

Diagram showing the biology of plants in terms of how they clean the air

However, many tropical plants possess the ability to not only beautify your interior environment; they filter these pollutants from the air.

NASA funded studies directed by Dr. B. C. Wolverton, a 20-year veteran in horticulture research, proved that the plants commonly used in interior plantscaping cleanse the air of many harmful pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.

Material distributed by the Plants for Clean Air Council demonstrates that plants remove pollutants in varying quantities. The council recommends one potted plant for each 100 square feet of floor space.

A more recent report (2015) by Professor Sir Cary Cooper and his team at Robertson Cooper called Human Spaces: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workspace, examines the relationship between humans and nature, which can be a critical determinant of their work performance and interactions with others.

A few quotes from the report follow: (note: the two images are also from the report)

"In today's contemporary built environment, people are increasingly isolated from the beneficial experience of natural systems and processes. Yet it is often natural settings that people find particularly appealing and aesthetically pleasing. So, by mimicking these natural environments within the workplace, we can create workspaces that are imbued with positive emotional experiences. It is often the case that we don’t take enough time to immerse ourselves in nature or appreciate the living systems that exist everywhere around us, making it vital for us to incorporate nature into our day-to-day environments."

13& higher-level of well-being reported by workers in environments with natural elements such as greenery and sunlight

"At work, when we focus our attention on a demanding task, factors in our environment that disrupt us can lead to mental fatigue. However, workspaces that incorporate nature provide more tranquil settings that allow for more effortless attention that is less mentally draining and may indeed restore - rather than deplete - our mental capacity.In academia, this is referred to as Attention Restoration Theory, which posits that viewing and experiencing nature engages a different part of the brain from that used in high attentional focus. It is therefore concluded that environments dominated by elements of nature are thought to be more beneficial to the individual. This point emphasizes the impact of nature on our cognitive capabilities, suggesting that by providing nature contact within the workspace, organizations can ensure consistent levels of job performance within their workforce."

Top five elements wanted in the office

Some of the summary findings include:

  • Those who worked in offices that provided natural light, live plants, and indoor and outdoor green space reported significantly higher levels of productivity across the globe.
  • Greenery in the office, such as plants and green walls, was associated with higher levels of creativity.
  • An absence of greenery both within the workspace and in the immediate outdoor environment was associated with higher levels of employee stress.
  • Workspaces where individuals had no natural light or greenery report higher levels of sickness absence.