Run a google image search on the word “office spaces”. The results could not be any less surprising. A plethora of architectural masterpieces emerges – well-furnished desks, clean-cut spaces, well-aligned desks, glass windows, and everything that makes for the so-called “lean” workplace. The question, however, is: how does this kind of arrangement affect the employees who inhabit them? What kind of paradigm does the inclusion of plants in workplace design bring?

A novel study conducted by Dr. Chris Knight from Exeter University in the UK; Marlon Niewenhuis from Cardiff University in the UK, and Professor Alex Haslam from Queensland University in Australia; reveal striking insights into how employee productivity can be greatly influenced by the use of plants in its structure.

A Greener Office Improves Employee Mental Power

Plants were shown to affect staff’s productivity levels. A “green” environment created an atmosphere of value and freshness. The significant increase in workplace satisfaction and concentration was evident in offices that were decorated with plants.

Several offices were used for the study; one office in London had expensive desks with company banners with fixed computer keyboards and taped down staplers. This was done to ensure tidiness and alignment. However, when plants got into the mix, employee performance improved. Basic tests on memory retention were conducted to substantiate this fact.

This study demonstrates the psychological influence of having plants in the workplace. Think of that feeling you get sitting by the pond and hearing the birds chirp away. Ordinarily, your imagination flows without duress and your mind is open to creative thinking. Now, put that state of mind in a workplace and imagine the outcome.

Employees in a similar state of mind will function more effectively because they would be more cognitively and emotionally immersed. Productivity will soar to undeniable levels. That was what this study was aiming to prove, and it did because the study reported a 15% increase in employee productivity for office spaces with plants in them. Photographs, changes in light and/or smell can be used to mimic the same effect and achieve similar results.

Now we know that plants can not only lower physiological stress and increase attention span, but they can also improve employee productivity.

Plants Ensure Workplaces Do Not Look Like Workplaces

Employees seem to work better in an environment that feels homely and reassuring, devoid of the usual workplace pressure. When employees see plants while at work, it makes them feel like they are doing less work than they are already doing. These plants ‘distract’ them from the intensity of the work they have at hand – an intensity or pressure that would otherwise be there if the office were filled with papers, computers, pens, cabinets, and whatnot.

Philodendrons, ivy, jade are examples of low-maintenance plants that can be used. They do not require much attention. If a more elaborate plant environment is required, maintenance services could be outsourced. Plants should have access to natural light.

The idea of incorporating plants into a workplace arrangement contradicts the “lean” management style that is popular today. However, with this insight, we hope to see a gravitation towards more plant-oriented workplaces.