Workplace Plants & Flowers Add More than Greenery to the Office

New research reported in 2014 shows both perceived and proven benefits of plants in the work environment, giving employers another tool in the engagement toolbox.

Researchers at the Cardiff University of Psychology found that plants in the workplace increase employee productivity and feelings of well-being.

Findings show that workers feel better about their work, both emotionally and physically, and it directly affects the quality of their work output.

Perceived Improvements

Marlon Nieuwenhaus, lead researcher of the Cardiff University of Psychology, and study co-author Craig Knight of the University of Exeter, tested employees in commercial offices in the U.K. and the Netherlands. In their study, they polled employees in environments with and without plants and greenery, and employees who worked in an environment with greenery for three weeks reported that they experienced increased workplace satisfaction, improved levels of concentration, and felt the air quality was better.

Measured Improvements

The researchers measured productivity of employees in both environments, with and without plants, by timing their work and found that employees in the space with plants completed tasks more quickly and with fewer errors than those in the space without greenery. Plants in the workspace increased productivity by up to 15 percent. Experts like Charlie Hall, chair of horticultural sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, have commented that plants could improve worker productivity because of physical and psychological benefits. He explains that better air-quality that plants create when producing oxygen and removing indoor air pollutants, as well as the improved emotional well-being of being around and seeing plants can lead to improved memory and decreased distractions.

Plants and Flowers for the Workplace

Mary Mazzoni, writing for Earth911, cites the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Cooperative Extension Service in recommending spider plants as good workplace plant for their easy growing habits in different levels of light and ability to clean dust from the air. She quotes Ohio State University as finding that lemon balm in the workplace adds mood enhancement factors because of its pleasant fragrance. She explains that Pothos and peace lilies are both shown by NASA research to improve indoor air quality. Mazzoni says to use plants that are easy to care for and thrive in indoor environments, rather than exotic plants that have fussy growing needs.

Research at Texas A&M University shows that adding flowers and plants to the work environment resulted in innovative thinking, problem solving, and original ideas, according to Dr. Roger Ulrich, lead researcher on the project. Flowering plants in the workplace should be easy to care for and grow, to avoid dead and depressing foliage. Fresh-cut flowers from FTD are a good option when tropical flowering plants can be difficult to maintain inside of the office.

How to Add Plants to the Workspace

How you add plants to the workspace is important to their survival and their impact on employees, customers, and others in the workspace. A plant that has a need for high-light levels will do poorly and eventually die if stuck in a dark corner. Interior landscaping companies like Ambius survey the space before adding plants, measuring the available light to match plants to the conditions, and considering what design features would work best for containers and placement.
Options for adding green plants to a workspace include potted plants, living green walls, trees, and flowering plants. A regular schedule of cut flowers for specific display areas is another option. Remember that watering, feeding, pruning, and dead-heading are required to maintain healthy, growing green plants. Adding green plants requires a plan for their maintenance and upkeep, whether that includes contracting an interior landscape service or assigning duties to facilities maintenance staff or a committee.

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