In today’s fast-paced work environments, finding ways to enhance productivity and well-being among employees has become a top priority for organizations. One intriguing solution that has gained significant attention is incorporating plants into office spaces. Recent research conducted by a team of psychologists from Cardiff University, the University of Exeter, and the University of Queensland has shed light on the benefits of “green” offices and their positive impact on employee productivity and satisfaction.
The Study: Lean vs. Green Offices
In the first field study of its kind, the researchers explored the effects of “lean” and “green” office designs on employees’ perceptions of air quality, concentration levels, workplace satisfaction, and productivity. Two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands served as the research settings. The team aimed to assess whether enriching a “lean” office with plants could lead to a measurable increase in productivity.
The Productivity Boost: A 15% Increase
The results of the study were compelling. The introduction of plants into the office environment led to a significant increase in productivity of approximately 15%. This finding challenges the widely accepted belief that minimalist workspaces devoid of greenery are more conducive to productivity. Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis from Cardiff University highlighted the importance of this research, stating, “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.”
Psychological Impact of Green Offices
Delving deeper into the reasons behind the productivity boost, the researchers discovered that green offices positively influenced employees’ work engagement. By introducing plants into the workspace, employees became more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work. The presence of greenery created a more enjoyable and comfortable atmosphere, contributing to enhanced well-being and job satisfaction
Show plant in an open office on tables with people around
Advantages of Plants in the Office:
1. Improved Workplace Satisfaction
One of the key findings of the study was the significant increase in workplace satisfaction among employees in green offices. The presence of plants had a positive impact on their perceptions of the office environment, making it more aesthetically appealing and creating a sense of calm and tranquility. This heightened satisfaction, in turn, resulted in higher levels of motivation and engagement. Employees felt more connected to their workspace, leading to increased job satisfaction and overall well-being.
2. Enhanced Concentration and Air Quality
Employees in green offices reported higher levels of concentration and perceived air quality. The presence of plants created a visually stimulating environment that aided cognitive functioning and reduced mental fatigue. Moreover, plants naturally purify the air by removing pollutants and increasing oxygen levels, leading to improved overall well-being and cognitive performance. The combination of improved air quality and enhanced concentration levels can have a significant impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of employees’ work.
3. The Psychological Benefits of Greenery
The study delved into the reasons behind the positive impact of plants on employee well-being. It found that green office spaces increased employees’ work engagement by fostering a physical, cognitive, and emotional connection to their tasks. The vibrant presence of nature within the workplace inspired creativity, reduced stress levels, and promoted a sense of fulfillment. By incorporating plants, organizations create an environment that nurtures employee well-being and enhances job satisfaction.
4. Reimagining Workspace Design
These findings challenge the widely accepted belief that minimalistic, sparsely furnished work environments are the most productive. The researchers emphasized the need to challenge the prevailing “lean” philosophy and embrace the idea that a green office is a smarter office. By enriching previously stark workspaces with plants, a significant boost in productivity, comfort, and profitability can be achieved. This finding presents an opportunity for organizations to reimagine their workspace design, promoting employee well-being and creating a conducive environment for creativity and innovation.
The field study revealed that enriching a “lean” office with plants led to a remarkable 15% increase in productivity among employees. By creating a more pleasant and engaging work environment, plants enhance employees’ quality of life and their level of commitment to their tasks.
7. Aesthetically Pleasing and Improved Office Environment
Introducing office plants adds visual appeal and enhances the overall aesthetic of the workspace. Greenery brings life and vibrancy to an otherwise sterile environment, creating a more inviting and pleasant atmosphere. Plants can also help soften the harsh lines of office furniture and promote a more relaxed ambiance, contributing to a positive office culture.
8. Sound Absorption and Privacy Enhancement
Certain plants can contribute to sound absorption in the office, reducing noise levels and creating a more peaceful work environment. Additionally, larger plants strategically placed in the office can help create privacy barriers and delineate separate work areas, providing employees with a greater sense of personal space and reducing distractions.
Challenges and Considerations
While incorporating plants in the office offers numerous benefits, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind:
1. Maintenance and Care
Office plants require regular maintenance, including watering, pruning, and cleaning. It is important to assign responsibility for plant care to ensure they are properly maintained. Neglecting plant care can lead to withering, pest infestations, and a decline in their overall health and appearance.
2. Lighting Conditions
Different plants have varying lighting requirements, and it is crucial to select species that can thrive in the available office lighting conditions. While some plants can adapt to low-light environments, others may require more natural sunlight. Understanding the lighting conditions in the office and selecting appropriate plant species accordingly is key to their success.
3. Allergies and Sensitivities
Some individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to certain types of plants or pollen. It is important to consider the well-being of all employees when selecting office plants. Opting for non-flowering or low-pollen plants can help minimize the risk of allergic reactions among employees.
4. Space Constraints
Office layout and available space can pose challenges when incorporating plants. It is essential to consider the size, growth habit, and placement requirements of plants to ensure they fit harmoniously within the office environment without causing obstructions or clutter.
5. Watering and Drainage
Proper watering and drainage systems are essential to maintain the health of office plants. Overwatering or inadequate drainage can lead to root rot and plant decline. It is crucial to choose appropriate containers with drainage holes and establish a consistent watering schedule to ensure optimal plant health.
Top 10 Office Plants
To help you get started with incorporating plants into your office, here is a list of ten office plants known for their adaptability and low-maintenance characteristics:
|Known for its air-purifying properties and ability to thrive in low-light conditions.
|A popular choice for offices due to its versatility, resilience, and attractive trailing vines.
|A hardy plant with glossy, dark green leaves that can tolerate low light and irregular watering.
|An adaptable plant with long, arching leaves and small white flowers, ideal for hanging baskets.
|Known for its elegant white flowers, peace lilies are excellent at improving air quality and thrive in moderate light.
|A visually appealing plant with variegated leaves that can tolerate various light conditions.
|With its large, glossy leaves, the rubber plant adds a touch of drama to the office and can tolerate low light.
|Apart from being a popular medicinal plant, aloe vera is low-maintenance and can thrive in dry office environments.
|Several varieties of dracaena, such as the Dragon Tree or the Corn Plant, add height and visual interest to the office.
|Devil’s Ivy (Golden Pothos)
|A trailing vine that can thrive in various light conditions and is particularly resilient.
These plants offer a range of benefits, from air purification and low-light tolerance to visual appeal and minimal care requirements. When selecting from this list, consider the specific lighting conditions and available space in your office to ensure the best fit for each plant.
Best Places to Position Office Plants
Strategic placement of office plants is key to maximizing their benefits and creating a harmonious work environment. Consider the following suggested locations when positioning plants within your office space:
1. Reception Area:
The reception area is the first point of contact for visitors and sets the tone for their experience. Welcoming guests with a display of greenery not only enhances the aesthetics but also creates a positive and inviting atmosphere. Place vibrant plants near the entrance or on a reception desk to make a strong visual impact and leave a lasting impression.
2. Workstations and Desks:
Workstations and desks are where employees spend a significant portion of their time. Introducing small potted plants in these areas can have a profound impact on employees’ well-being and productivity. Placing plants directly on desks or nearby can help create a sense of connection with nature, reduce stress, and enhance focus and concentration. Opt for compact plants that don’t require much space but add a touch of freshness to individual work areas.
3. Meeting Rooms:
Meetings and discussions are crucial aspects of office life. Incorporating plants in meeting rooms can significantly improve the overall ambiance and promote a more relaxed and creative atmosphere. Consider placing plants on shelves, windowsills, or tables within meeting spaces to create a visually appealing and calming environment. The presence of plants can help reduce tension and encourage open communication and collaboration among participants.
4. Common Areas:
Common areas such as break rooms, lounges, or collaborative spaces are where employees take a break, recharge, and interact with their colleagues. These areas benefit greatly from the inclusion of plants, as they contribute to a more inviting and refreshing environment. Adding plants in common areas can help improve mood, create a sense of tranquility, and enhance overall well-being. Consider placing plants on countertops, shelves, or hanging planters to maximize the use of space and create a pleasant ambiance for relaxation and socialization.
5. Empty Corners or Walls:
Empty corners or bare walls in the office can be transformed into captivating green spaces. These areas provide an opportunity to introduce larger plants that add height, texture, and visual interest to the overall office design. By utilizing empty spaces, you can create focal points and natural dividers within the office environment. Opt for taller plants or vertical gardens that can thrive in the available light conditions and bring life to otherwise unused areas.
10 Tips for Taking Care of Office Plants
1. Choose the right plants:
Select office plants that are well-suited to indoor environments and require minimal care. Consider factors such as lighting conditions and the availability of space in your office.
2. Provide adequate lighting:
Ensure that your office plants receive sufficient light. Place them near windows or use artificial lighting, such as fluorescent or LED lights, if natural light is limited.
3. Water appropriately:
Avoid overwatering or underwatering your plants. Check the soil moisture regularly and water when it feels dry about an inch below the surface. Be mindful not to let the plants sit in standing water.
4. Maintain proper humidity levels:
Most office environments have low humidity, which can affect plant health. Increase humidity by placing a tray of water near your plants or using a humidifier.
5. Monitor temperature:
Office plants generally thrive in temperatures between 60°F to 75°F (15°C to 24°C). Avoid exposing them to extreme temperature fluctuations, drafts, or direct air conditioning vents.
6. Dust the leaves:
Regularly dust the leaves of your office plants to keep them clean and allow them to breathe properly. Use a soft cloth or damp sponge to gently wipe away dust.
7. Fertilize as needed:
Provide essential nutrients to your plants by fertilizing them. Use a balanced liquid fertilizer or slow-release granules according to the instructions provided for each specific plant.
8. Prune and trim:
9. Monitor for pests:
Keep an eye out for common pests like aphids, mealybugs, or spider mites. If you notice any signs of infestation, take immediate action to prevent the pests from spreading.
10. Rotate and rearrange:
Rotate your plants occasionally to ensure all sides receive adequate light. Rearrange them within your office space to prevent uneven growth and to provide a fresh look to your workspace.
Remember, each plant has its own specific care requirements, so it’s important to research and understand the needs of your office plants to keep them thriving.
How do office plants improve productivity?
Office plants improve productivity by enhancing air quality, reducing stress levels, and creating a visually pleasing and calming environment. They contribute to improved concentration, cognitive functioning, and overall employee well-being, leading to increased productivity.
Do office plants require a lot of maintenance?
No, many office plants are low-maintenance and require minimal care. There are numerous plant varieties available that can thrive in indoor environments with low light and irregular watering. Selecting the right plants and providing basic care, such as occasional watering and appropriate light levels, can ensure their longevity without significant maintenance efforts.
Can office plants improve air quality?
Yes, office plants have air-purifying properties and can help improve indoor air quality. Plants naturally filter pollutants and release oxygen, creating a healthier and more oxygen-rich environment for employees. This can result in reduced respiratory problems and increased overall well-being.
Are there office plants suitable for small spaces?
Absolutely! There are plenty of office plants that are suitable for small spaces, such as compact desk plants or hanging plants that utilize vertical space. Examples include succulents, pothos, or small ferns. These plants not only add a touch of greenery but also fit well in limited office space.
Can office plants help reduce noise levels in the workplace?
Yes, office plants can help reduce noise levels in the workplace. Plants have the ability to absorb and deflect sound waves, acting as natural sound barriers. By strategically placing plants in areas with high noise levels, such as open office spaces or near busy corridors, they can help minimize distractions and create a more peaceful and focused work environment. Additionally, the presence of plants can contribute to a sense of privacy and reduce the echo effect often found in larger office spaces.
Introducing plants into the office environment offers a multitude of advantages, including improved air quality, enhanced well-being, increased productivity, and an aesthetically pleasing workspace. While there are challenges to consider, proper plant selection, care, and strategic placement can help overcome these obstacles. By incorporating the top ten office plants discussed in this article and leveraging their unique characteristics, organizations can create a more productive, pleasant, and engaging work environment for their employees.
This article is based on the research study conducted by Marlon Nieuwenhuis, Craig Knight, Alex Haslam, and the University of Exeter, University of Groningen, and the University of Queensland. For more information, refer to the original research article