Plants are nice to have anywhere, particularly in the workplace. Seeing greens thriving by the deskside or an entire section of the wall amid an office painted mostly black and white can be refreshing. In a way, they serve as constant reminders that life is too short to spend every fleeting second of it at a nine-to-five day job.
As such, it shouldn’t be surprising that office plants play a key role in improving an office’s productivity. There have been a handful of studies on the subject, from the often-cited 2014 research that recorded a 15% increase to the more recent one highlighting the effects of micro-nature on an employee’s well-being.
But surely there’s more to this than mere eye candy for the weary worker—and you’d be right. Here’s a closer look at how having plants in the workplace can work wonders for the company and its people.
Managing Indoor Air Quality
How plants grow needs no in-depth explanation: they need light, water, nutrient-rich soil, enough space, and air. That last bit is worth noting because they take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen, unlike humans and most mammals that inhale oxygen and exhale CO2.
But as a study by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) discovered, these leafy beings are capable of more. The dozen plants selected for the research displayed the ability to absorb toxic gases in the air, namely volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde.
That said, the NASA study was done in a closed chamber, which is nowhere similar to real life. More importantly, a memo issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in response to the research stated that it would take hundreds of plants to make a noticeable difference in indoor air quality (IAQ). That’s akin to turning the office into an indoor jungle.
While plants are no substitute for modern ventilation, every bit of help in maintaining good IAQ matters. If that huge Kentia palm in the break room or wall of devil’s ivies can keep a bit of the VOCs away while being a sight for sore eyes, it’s worth having a few. You can learn more here about the ideal species to place in the office.
Reducing Work-Related Stress
This tidbit comes from the biophilia hypothesis, an idea coined by American naturalist and writer E.O. Wilson that suggests an inherent link between humans and plants. He cited people’s affinity for finding solace in nature and a scientific basis for such behavior. Now, decades after coming up with that notion, the hypothesis is becoming common truth.
Based on a review of 2,500 relevant records, urban design experts at China’s Wuhan University reported that a small amount of greenery had various effects on the body. These range from low pulse rates to restorative benefits to mental health. As the vital metrics used are key indicators of stress, registering positive levels speaks volumes about plants’ potential.
The modern workplace will need this potential as it comes out what many experts call ‘the year of workplace stress.’ Statistics showed a drastic increase in workplace stress in 2023 compared to 2022, prompting employees to take longer days off to recuperate. No single cause is specified, but it’s widely believed that the past few years have negatively impacted people’s outlook.
There’s nothing wrong with a few people taking a well-deserved vacation, but too many doing so will take their toll on overall productivity. And it isn’t like bosses can tell employees to bear with their illnesses to meet deadlines. A plant or two can contribute to the workforce’s welfare.
Calming Green Color
Not all plants are green, but those that are may help employees relax. One study in Egypt had the participants look at different varieties of English ivy. Based on recorded eye and brain activity, researchers learned that those with green and green-yellow leaves promoted calm, and red and dark green ones were associated with energy.
Green may be the default color of nature, but color psychology imparts various meanings. It’s also associated with good health, motivation to achieve, and optimism, among others. Even its shades have their respective symbolisms, such as dark green representing money and fertility or olive green being the color of tranquility.
Choosing plants with the right color can influence the overall mood in the workplace. Nothing says more tasks done for the day than a workforce motivated by the sight of happy plants and bamboo palms thriving together.
Amid an urban setting, a spread of plants is good to have in the office. Some of their benefits to a worker’s well-being may still be subject to debate, but the sensation of calmness and motivation they impart is hard to deny. Perhaps it’s human nature to seek rejuvenation in nature.