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Indoor Plants Improve the Mentality of Employees

Numerous studies have demonstrated that indoor plants have an overwhelmingly positive effect on building occupants. These positive effects can be generally grouped into three categories:

1.     Performance effects
a.     Improved opportunities for collaboration and communication, positive impact on recruiting and retention, and a positive message about investment in staff which equates to trust building, alignment in key workplace initiatives, and notable marketplace differentiator in leased environments.

2.     Psychological effects
a.     Stress reduction, increased mental agility & innovative thinking, positive perceptions, background noise management, and increased motivation & productivity

3.     Physiological effects
a.     Improved air quality, increased humidity, and reduced dust, carbon dioxide, mold, bacteria, harmful chemicals, and VOCs; all of these result in reduced absenteeism.

A great deal of research has been conducted on how plants affect building occupants.

In 1994, Dr. Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University published “Effects of Vegetation Views on Stress Health Indicators,” which found that views of plants and other nature can reduce stress, and in certain situations may have beneficial health-related influences. Dr. Ulrich followed up this publication with a 2002 study titled “Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals,” which found that hospital patient subjects with a nature view had shorter hospital stays and suffered fewer minor post-surgical complications. These patients also more frequently reported positive comments about their condition and requested fewer doses of strong narcotic pain medications versus the group with the “wall view”. 

In 2003, Dr. Ulrich published “The Impact of Flowers and Plants on Workplace Productivity Study,” which found that problem-solving skills, idea generation, and creative performance improve substantially in workplace environments that include, you guessed it, flowers and plants! He stated, “flowers and plants are not simply visual embellishments…they can contribute to better feelings in employees and a more productive work environment.”

Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University authored the 1996 study “Interior Plants May Improve Worker Productivity and Reduce Stress in a Windowless Environment.” This study found that plants, including flowers, reduce stress levels and increase productivity in an office environment. Study participants reported feeling more attentive when plants were present. This feeling was confirmed by the data which revealed that subjects had 12% quicker reactions on a task they were given on a computer and had lower blood pressure when plants were present.

These are by no means the only studies that confirmed the positive effects of plants. For example, researchers at Surrey University in England published the paper “The Psychological Effects of Plants on People in Office,” which found that plants had the ability to lower stress, and that if given a choice, people preferred to work in an environment with plants. Additionally, Professor Tove Fjeld of the Agricultural University in Oslo, Norway published his paper, titled “The Effect of Interior Planting on Health and Discomfort Among Workers and School Children,” which found that health and discomfort symptoms were 21%-25% lower during the period when subjects had plants present compared to a period without plants. Dr. Fjeld presented some of his findings at a seminar in 2002, titled “Reducing Health Complaints at Work.”

There are also anecdotal stories from companies that have added plants to their office and experienced the positive effects firsthand.

In 1999, BMW sponsored a study on the health benefits of interior plants in offices in response to ongoing health complaints from staff at their Munich headquarters. BMW collected and analyzed extensive data comparing productivity and absenteeism in the planted “green” and the unplanted “non-green” work areas. BMW found that the well-being of the work force clearly improved in the planted areas. Beate Klug, the Health and Safety Officer for BMW, commented, “once the planting was introduced, 93% of the employees working in these areas felt healthier and more motivated to work. They praised the reduction in noise levels and favored working in the ‘green’ work place.” Once plants were introduced, employee absenteeism fell significantly. They also found that the plants contributed to better humidity levels, reduced airborne particles, and generally made the office more comfortable.

For their new office, Genzyme Corporation selected a revitalized design that integrated a diverse range of sustainable systems. The bright atrium, surrounded by interior gardens, seating areas, and cafés is credited with the project’s success. Joan Wood, Vice President of Leadership and Organizational Development, conducted a post-occupancy survey in October of 2005 to assess the impact of the design on employee productivity. 88% of employees responded that the direct views and access to the interior gardens improved their sense of well-being.

As you can see, there are a million reasons to add plants to interior office and workspaces to improve the productivity and well-being of employees. From performance improvements to positive psychological & physiological effects, the benefits of plants are seemingly endless.

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