Updated: Jul 26, 2021
In recent years, more and more studies have recognized the long-term positive effects office plants can have on employees and employers alike. From a 2019 study focusing on students and their increased levels of concentration around plants, to a 2017 study citing the strength of plants as a form of therapy, the verdict is clear - plants have a strong, positive impact on humans.
At Zauben, we believe this wholeheartedly and are committed to helping companies create better, healthier workplaces through biophilic design. Biophilic design is when designers and architects bring plants or biology in general into interior design. The word "biophilic" in ancient Greek literally translates to a "love for or of living things." That is exactly what we have at Zauben; a love for living things, and specifically, for things that are green and lush.
Since the first study on plant benefits in 2014, numerous other tests and research have shown a distinct link between having plants in the workplace and numerous positive benefits.
The Benefits of Plants in the Workplace
From the psychological to the physical, the range of benefits that plants can have for everyone in a workspace is varied. The more studies that are done around biophilic design, the more positive benefits we see coming out of it. Some of the most beneficial and well-researched of these aspects are included below.
Architecture and design are always changing. Nowadays, open-concept offices hold a high place of esteem among workspace designers. There are many positive aspects to this layout, but one of the negatives is the indoor noise pollution from having so many people in a small space.
Plants help to mitigate this because they absorb noise and effectively reduce background noise. The larger the plant and its pot, the better it will absorb the background noise the rest of the office generates.
Studies done by psychologists at Exeter University have found that employees perform better as a whole when houseplants are a part of their workspace. Offices with zero decor are actually considered toxic spaces for humans to spend the majority of their time.
This study went on for 10 years and ultimately concluded that workers are approximately 15 percent more productive when there are houseplants incorporated into the decor.
Plants engage people with their surroundings, making it easier for them to stay focused and increase their output. Eye-catching plants are the best to achieve this level of focus, but almost any living plant will do.
Not only does having plants around increase your productivity; they can also boost your creativity. Although this isn't essential in every workspace, it is often a causal factor for increased ingenuity, creative solutions, and enhanced problem-solving skills. Office plants help inspire by bringing vibrant colors and smells into the space, satisfying the biophilic portion of our brains. Stimulating the senses is key to the metaphorical door that can unlock a creative block in our brains.
The theory of attention restoration suggests that even looking at images of nature can shift the brain into a different processing mode that allows us to access creative thinking easier and enhance our concentration. Looking at nature does this that much more effectively.
For almost all of us, stress is unavoidable, particularly when we are at work. However, many studies, including one from the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, show a correlation between indoor plants and reduction in stress and anxiety levels. Plants seem to do this by suppressing activity in the autonomic nervous system, a system in your body that largely acts unconsciously and plays a significant role in feelings of stress and anxiety.
Reduced Levels of Sickness and Absenteeism
In 2015, a Human Space report came out. This report studied 7,600 office workers spanning over 16 countries. Almost two-thirds of the workers in the study had no live plants in their workspaces. Among the few that did, the offices scored 15 percent higher in wellbeing on average and 6 percent higher in productivity.
There is still a lot of research to be done on exactly how much plants affect physical illness and absenteeism. However, what we do already know is that beautifully designed office spaces that incorporate plenty of natural flora keep people engaged with their work and happier, positively impacting their health as a whole.
More Attractive Workspaces for Job Applicants
We have already seen evidence that the benefits of plants run deeper than your office's aesthetics. However, you can't knock how much plants can improve the visual quality of office space. Remember that note about perceptions earlier? It turns out that they are even more powerful when it comes to first impressions. Attracting people with talent into a workplace is easier when you incorporate natural elements into an office space. A third of people questioned said workplace design affects their decisions to join a company.
Improved Air Quality
We owe the cleanliness of our air to the vast rainforests and plains that span the globe, working to cleanse the air for billions worldwide. Indoors, having plenty of plants can improve the quality of air the same way on a smaller scale that the rainforests do on a global scale. Although we are still not entirely sure of the extent of the effect of indoor plants when it comes to keeping our air clean and filtered, it makes sense that they would help with indoor air pollution.
In fact, the initial study that suggested plants could function to clean air inside homes and offices was done at a laboratory at NASA. The study concluded that plants showed to be a "promising economic solution to indoor air pollution." Needless to say, the quality of our air has a lot to do with our continued health, supporting many of the previous studies and points regarding the health and wellness of participating employees.
The Success of Plants in the Workplace
Some of the world's most successful companies have recognized the benefits that come with incorporating plants into their indoor office spaces. From Apple to Google and smaller companies, greenery in pots and on green living walls has found a home in the workplace. Not only do plants benefit businesses by making their employees more productive and creative, but they also benefit individuals, keeping them healthier and happier in their home away from home.