Why you should have plants at work. Really!
When you picture a workplace full of plants, you might be imagining a trendy coffee shop with a wall full of succulents and climbing vines. A trend toward greenery in workplaces has been driven by plant-loving interior design fans, along with the tech industry—consider Amazon’s Seattle headquarters featuring spheres that resemble biodomes or greenhouses. But even people in smaller workspaces will appreciate how adding a few plants can improve health and happiness on the job.
Do plants make a healthier environment?
Here are some ways plants contribute to a better work space:
1. Increase productivity
A 2014 study compared basic and “green” large offices in the U.K. and the Netherlands over several months and found that adding plants could increase productivity by 15%. The lead researcher, Marlon Nieuwenhuis, from Cardiff University's School of Psychology, told Science Daily: "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.”
2. Reduce stress
While numerous studies have linked indoor plants to stress reduction and pain tolerance, you may have heard about the famous study that compared how hospital patients recovered if their window had a view of a brick wall versus a view of a tree. The patients who saw nature recovered in fewer days, required less strong pain medication, and were reported to be in better spirits.
3. Help with concentration
Walking in nature (or just viewing a natural scene as a screensaver on your computer) appears to replenish our attention, according to a 2008 study. It’s because nature “modestly” grabs our attention and gives our “directed-attention abilities” a chance to reset, compared to urban settings, which are less restorative and demand more attention (“watch out for that car”).
4. Make us feel better physically
In one study of workers and schoolchildren, plants lowered levels of fatigue, headache and dry throats. Researchers measured how plants reduced discomfort symptoms in three different work environments: a Norwegian hospital, an office building and a junior high school.
5. Release humidity
Depending on your location in Canada, dry indoor air can be a problem, especially in winter. As it turns out, houseplants release moisture: some say they create a humidity level that exactly matches the recommended range of human comfort of 30% to 60%. It’s a process called evapotranspiration, meaning that water from soil moves through the plant to the leaves, where the pores (“stomata”) evaporate the water. Large-leafed plants are more effective for releasing humidity.
6. Purify air?
While plants are perceived as cleaning indoor air, it’s a little unclear whether this is myth or reality. Studies conducted in test chambers found that plants could remove formaldehyde, xylene and benzene from the air (chemicals sometimes found in furniture and building materials). However, compared to the large size of indoor work areas, adding a few plants doesn’t have a substantive effect on air quality, even if staff perceive the air as cleaner.
What kind of plants should go to work
Large companies sometimes hire a horticultural company to look after the potted palms at the office or get interior designers to create those pro-level leafy planters that decorate hotels and restaurants. But if you own a small- or medium-sized company, you could just choose a few plants from what’s available at a greenhouse, florist or the home and garden section of a hardware store.
First, think about the conditions in your workplace: sunny or dim lighting? Will someone remember to water the plants, or should you start with a cactus? If you’re looking for easy houseplants to care for, start with one of these:
- Snake Plant
- Rubber Plant
- ZZ Plant
Try adding a plant or two to your workspace, then see if you like how it looks and feels in your office. Keep the plastic “tags” sent with greenery with directions on how to care for them, then follow directions to keep your new work plants employed for a long time.