You may consider getting your employees back in the office as some cities start to return to some semblance of normalcy. But your workers may not be in the best spirits. The COVID-19 outbreak still hasn’t been contained in the country and working from home isn’t for everyone.
To make your workers satisfied and comfortable when they come back to the office, improve their physical workspace. According to a study published in the Procedia Engineering journal, the characteristics of the physical office has significant effects on employee productivity, satisfaction and performance. A comfortable environment enables employees to focus on the quality of their job.
An underrated way of improving the look and feel of the office is adding indoor plants. Almost every big company in Silicon Valley and other business districts are getting into the green trend. WeWork, an office space leasing company always ensures that their buildings have green plants and natural light. Apple Park, the tech giant’s newest campus, has a literal park in the middle of the building. It has over 9,000 drought-tolerant trees. Amazon’s latest headquarters looks straight up like a greenhouse, with three huge domes filled not only with office equipment but also different kinds of plants.
Companies big and small are making their offices truly green. But what are the specific benefits of indoor plants to employees?
Seeing Red? Try Looking at Greens
If you’re stressed, the mere sight of plants may ease your negative feelings. A study from the American Society of Horticultural Science tried to explore the use of plants in boosting the mental health of employees. The participants were workers who didn’t get much exposure to healthy green environments like parks and forests, and they were tasked them to take three-minute rests on their desks every time they felt tired. The study had two phases: a period where plants weren’t in the workplace, and another where the participants were able to see and even take care of the plant of their choice.
They found that the anxiety of the participants decreased significantly when they looked at and took care of plants. The results were more or less the same throughout various age groups. The researchers recommended that workers have a small plant on their desk, preferably near their computer monitor. They also suggest not only looking at the plant when you’re stressed but interacting with it too by watering or pruning it.
A workplace filled with indoor plants can increase worker productivity, according to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The researchers studied the effects of plants on productivity for over a decade. They collaborated with experts in universities across the globe. They visited “lean” offices, which were devoid of any distractions like souvenirs and personal items to keep employees supposedly productive. The researchers stated that these types of workplaces just made workers miserable.
They tried bringing plants into these workplaces — one plant per square meter, to be exact. They found that the workers had significantly improved performance when it came to memory retention and other basic tests. This is compared to their usual office environment. They also achieved similar results with personal photographs, changes in smell, and changes in lighting. You can replicate this by adding a potted plant in every room in your office. You could also invest in vertical landscape designs, if your office is scarce in space.
They Purify the Air, but Only Slightly
A popular perception about indoor plants is that they purify the air, ridding it of potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases that emit from solids and liquids like paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, office equipment, and more. Excess exposure to them can lead to a variety of mild to serious health problems. Soil microorganisms were also seen to help in cleaning the air. However, the studies that these opinions were based on are sadly outdated. Plants do purify the air, but they do so insignificantly.
Recent papers and expert opinions state that having a good HVAC system does significantly more than plants in cleaning indoor air.
Improving the physical space is one of the most impactful ways to boost your workers’ performance. A safe, healthy and hassle-free way to do this is to bring in a variety of indoor plants. Different studies and reports over the years have shown that plants reduce employee stress and improve productivity. You don’t have to grow extravagant plants like weeping cherry trees, simple succulents and other low-maintenance potted plants will do. All the great companies are doing it, so it’s a matter of when, not if, you’ll start bringing greens into your workplace.