The concept of office space has evolved over time from grimy cubicles next to 300 other people to modern co-working spaces that integrate life, work, and play. Kind and layout of office space depends on the type of work and company budget, but one universal improvement can make a vast difference: more plants. Creating a more positive environment in the work space can have a big impact on the employees. This article explores how work environment modification with indoor plants can affect employees and practical recommendations on how to integrate more plants into the office.
Having indoor plants in work environments has numerous benefits on the employees. One study found that just by entering a work space that has been augmented with indoor plants can increase attention capacity.1 Especially in offices that do not have windows or have limited views, plants can have a restorative effect on attention capacity. This can then affect task and job performance. By coming back to work from the micro-break looking at plants and re-focusing the attention onto their tasks, employees can have improved cognitive function. In addition, indoor plants have been shown to increase productivity.2
Office plants affect workers both psychologically and physiologically. The presence of plants generates positive feelings and moods, stimulating the brain to recall information better, become a better problem solver, and utilize creativity.3 Plants can decrease perceived stress and stress-related behaviors in the workplace, as well as decrease health complaints.4 Office plants have been correlated with decreased eye fatigue, lower blood pressure, slowed heart rate, and decreased incidents of headache.5
Here are some practical recommendations to incorporate more plants into the office space:
- Top-down approach and leadership engagement: Encouraging employees to bring more plants into their space, leadership leading by example, and consulting an interior designer or ergonomist on how to best place office plants can all help create a plant-rich office environment.
- Best & Easy office plants to start with:
- Cactus or succulents: Since cactus and succulents have very little requirements for water, they are extremely easy to take care of.
- Pothos: This plant is an excellent air purifier that can absorb toxins from the air and the materials around it.
- Snake Plant: One of the easiest indoor plants to grow, there are many varieties and thrive in room temperature and variable lighting conditions.
- Happy plants, happy people: In order to make people happy, plants have to be happy, vital, and well taken care of. The more attention paid to plants, the healthier the plants will be, therefore positively impacting the people around them. Make sure to provide a suitable environment and care for the plants, including ample sunlight, ample space, good soil and nutrient supplements, and adequate watering.
Incorporating more office plants cannot magically cure all problems in the office, but is definitely a good first step towards a healthy and positive work environment and enhancing employee health and performance.
- Raanaas, R., Evensen, K., Rich, D., Sjostrom, G., Patil, G. B. 2011. Benefits of indoor plants on attention capacity in an office setting. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 31: 99-105
- Bakker, I., van der Voordt, T. 2010. The Influence of Plants on Productivity: A Critical Assessment of Research Findings and Test Methods. Facilities. 28(9): 416-439
- Shibata, S., Suzuki, N. 2002. Effects of an indoor plant on creative task performance and mood. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 22(3): 265-72.
- Largo-Wight, E., Chen, W., Dodd, V., Weiler, R. 2011. Healthy Workplaces: The Effect of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health. Public Health Reports. 126: 124-130
- Ulrich, R.S. 2002. The Consequences on Health of Plants in and around Hospitals on Patients and Nursing Staff. Center for Health Systems and Design, Texas A&M University CollegeState, College Station, TX.