There’s a reason you see everyone all over Instagram raving about their newest plant find. Not only are they beautiful but they pack a lot of notable differences for our mental health, which is super tested right now during the pandemic. Plants play a huge roll in new business design for many reasons and their members are here for it.

A recent study from Harvard found that design not only plays a huge role in our professional life, but can also have an impact on our well-being when we get home as well.

The researchers examined 10 high-performing buildings across five U.S. cities in order to study the relationship between the conditions inside the building as well as the productivity and well-being of the occupants. It went on to show that when we work in green-certified offices, we get a 26% boost in cognition, and 30% fewer sickness related absences.  What's more, respondents also reported a 6% rise in their sleep quality.

Greenery Makes a Difference When You Work in A Concrete Jungle

These days, cities are growing at an alarming rate to accommodate all of the professionals that flock to the work opportunities in it. With all of the positives a growing city brings, there is a lack of that luscious greenery. The findings coincide with a number of previous studies on the impact greenery can have on our productivity.

For instance, an Exeter University study found that employees were 15% more productive when working in a 'green' office than their peers in a more traditional environment.  A green office appeared to provide a boost to employee engagement, concentration levels, and perceived air quality all showing a rise after the introduction of plants into the office.

“The performance of those working in ‘Green’ environments, increases on average by double, compared to those who work in conventional ones. In a marketplace where costs are key and mistakes cost money, this sort of increase cannot be ignored. Better strategic thinking and usage of information must lead to improved and more effective performance, less mistakes and down time. One would think that this alone would “pay for” the capital costs of any improvements." 

-Mark Conway

Don’t believe us? When Apple announced plans for its Silicon Valley campus, the designs involved planting almost 9,000 trees. Inside Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, you’ll find “spheres” of more than 40,000 plants from around the world. But who keeps up with all of those plants?! There are designers solely dedicated to doing the upkeep on the corporate plant walls and apps to help you select the most suitable plants for your space.

Here are the benefits

One of the first studies into the long-term effects of office plants was conducted in 2014 by researchers in Australia, the UK, and the Netherlands. It studied three office environments over several months and found greenery significantly increases workplace happiness in employees, raises self-reported concentration levels, and improves perceived air quality.

Researchers also found a clear ROI: Employees are significantly more productive when surrounded by office plants.

“Simply enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15 percent—a figure that aligns closely with findings in previously conducted laboratory studies,” lead author Marlon Nieuwenhuis told Science Daily. This “identifies a pathway to a more enjoyable, more comfortable, and a more profitable form of office-based working.”

How do office plants make you happy and work efficiently? 

Office greenery and workplace happiness go together because of our love of nature, the power of attention stimuli, and—according to one thought leader—the “friendships” we form with living things. Ever named your plants? This is where it stems from.

Indoor plants are stress-relievers

Biophilic design shows that environments with plants evoke in humans a different response than urban environments, aka concrete jungles and that stuffy corporate feel. 

In a recent interview, Kaitlyn Gillis and Birgitta Gatersleben of the UK’s University of Sussex link indoor plants to stress reduction and pain tolerance. “Plants have the ability to directly bring green, living nature into the indoor environment,” their report states. “Psychological studies have demonstrated the health and wellbeing benefits of placing plants inside.” 

The researchers cite a handful of studies, including breakthrough research by Roger Ulrich in 1991 that found hospital patients with views of the outdoors require less pain medication than those who were not exposed to nature views. 

Office plants helps expand our attention span

Researchers from the University of Michigan suggest urban environments are brimming with “dramatic stimuli,” or distractions that require urgent, directed attention to avoid, say, being hit by a bus. Certainly, receiving an urgent request or an email that requires an immediate reply is less dramatic than being hit by a bus, but the stimuli is similarly immediate and “top-down.”  

This is different in nature, which is “filled with intriguing stimuli that modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion,” the researchers say, adding natural environments can help “replenish” our capacity for attention and focus. Something as simple as viewing pictures of nature can make a difference, the researchers found; imagine what a wall garden might achieve? 

Office plants can be your new friends

Taking the stage at a TEDxWhiteRock thought-leadership conference, Canadian engineer Mike Robinson discussed an approach that uses desk plants to boost employees’ personal accountability. Instead of giving each employee a desk plant or dressing the office in plants, Robinson asked his team to choose their desk plants and make their decisions based on the feelings of the plant. 

“So you have to put yourself in the spot of the plant, as it were, and say, ‘Which person do I want to be my new friend?'” he says. This encourages ownership and heightens a sense of accountability. The results showed Robinson’s observations suggest employees are working more efficiently after choosing their plant friend,” and he says no plant has died in five years. 

Indoor plants unfortunately don’t purify the air like we thought

Though many articles (and plant retailers) suggest the benefits of indoor plants are “purifying the air,” this is likely not happening in a regular office. 

These claims are based on 1989 research by NASA scientist Bill Wolverton that did declare plants to be a “promising economic solution to indoor air pollution.” But, this experiment was conducted in an airtight laboratory with the purpose of deciding whether plants would benefit humans in space. 

“It’s such an alluring and enticing idea,” Elliott Gall at Portland State University tells The Atlantic. “But the scientific literature shows that indoor houseplants—as would be typically implemented—do very little to clean the air.”

The thought of air quality improving with office greenery and in workplaces—where employees should feel happy, energized, and engaged—that’s also an important result. 

Conclusion, go get some plants

The benefits of office greenery are countless. Plants amplify productivity since people want to be in those environments longer, so whether you’re working from home, a coworking space, or the office, try implementing some new plants in your life and see how your day and mental health changes. 

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