A recent study demonstrated that having plants on your desk or around the office will make you happier and more productive at work. Researchers noted that having a plant nearby can increase employee productivity up to 15%. Although this finding may not seem significant, a 15% boost in productivity adds up, especially if every employee experiences some sort of improvement.
In addition to showing an increase in productivity, employees also noticed that they experienced improvement in ability to focus, more satisfaction, and believed that their air quality was better. This study is unique in that it could lead to improvements in workspace design to maximize employee satisfaction and productivity.
Study: Plant-filled office vs. Minimalist “lean” office
Prior to conducting the study, researchers from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University had hypothesized that work environment may affect well-being and productivity around the office. Previous smaller studies had already noted plants around the office can lead to increased creativity, productivity, and well-being. Researchers began their study by comparing a workplace filled with plants to one that was a minimalist setup (i.e. a “lean” office environment).
They sought out 2 large commercial offices in both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to conduct their study. The study was conducted over a 2 month period and recorded the staff’s individual ratings of air quality, ability to concentrate, and satisfaction with work. Along the way researchers also documented employee productivity.
Study findings: What the office staff reported…
Despite the fact that there were previous similar studies in the past, this is the first research to be conducted in real office settings with findings that show long-term promise. There were three primary findings that were reported by researchers. Plants increased concentration, workplace satisfaction, and perception of air quality.
- Improved ability to focus: Employees reported feeling sharper and had improvements in cognition. Their improvements in concentration were reflected by an increase of productivity.
- Increased workplace satisfaction: Employees with plant-filled offices were more satisfied with their experience on the job and reported a greater sense of well-being. Let’s face it, many jobs can be a total drain on our mood and outlook. If plants could improve mood, it could lead to better, more loyal employees.
- Better perceived air quality: Many offices with poor air quality may benefit from the introduction of plants. It is well known that plants can improve air quality, which likely lead many people to report a perceived improvement in quality of air.
Lead researcher Marlon Nieuwenhuis was quoted as saying, “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.” Previous smaller studies have even found that plants could increase productivity by even more than 15%, one study suggesting it does so by up to 38%.
- Reference: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2014-30837-001/
Could plants be used to improve overall mental health?
This study clearly shows that plants can have a positive impact on mental health. No one knows exactly how or why plants lead to improvements in mood and productivity. However, some hypothesized that plants make employees more mentally, physically, and emotionally engaged with their work. They could also boost spirits of certain individuals in the fact that they resemble nature or bring zest and life to an otherwise dull office.
This research demonstrates that the benefit of plants on mental health may be indirect, but is noticeable. Does this mean that a plant could help you overcome major depression? Probably not. But it does suggest that plants in the workplace can help improve your concentration, productivity, and make you feel happier on the job.
Note: It would be interesting to determine whether having plants around is associated with changes in brain activity or if consistent exposure could improve certain mental health conditions.
Devising a “smart office” template to maximize office satisfaction
The goal of these researchers is to eventually devise a strategy or template for a “smart office.” In other words, researchers want to ultimately experiment with various office design and layouts that will maximize employee productivity, well-being, mood, and focus. This particular study is relatively intriguing because it challenges the modern “lean” philosophy of an office layout.
Their research questioned whether “less” was actually “more” in regards to a minimal approach. Reflecting on the popular “minimalist” office setup, researcher Professor Alex Haslam from the School of Psychology at University of Queensland suggested that “sometimes less is just less.”
Bottom line: Put some plants on your desk and around the office
If your company isn’t going to fund plants for your entire office, you may want to point them to this latest research and suggest otherwise. Additionally, you could simply go out and get a plant for your own desk or office. At the end of the day, getting even a slight advantage in mental health and overall wellbeing can be huge. Plus if a plant helps you accomplish 15% more, it could be the difference between finishing your work on time or working extra hours.
Researchers believe that these findings will ultimately lead to new office layout strategies and templates to optimize mental health. They also demonstrate that the highly-popularized “lean” (minimal) layouts may not be as beneficial as previously thought for promoting productivity. In fact, this research implies that the “lean” style of an office layout may actually lead to reductions in productivity and/or overall job satisfaction.
The bottom line is that strategically placing some plants around the office may prove to be a very smart investment for your personal health and for the overall health of your company. What do you think about this study? Have you noticed whether having a plant around your desk or office makes you more productive or in a better mood?
- Related: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272494410001027?np=y