Can plants boost employee productivity?
This article first appeared in Workplace Diva, February 2010.
Employees toiling away in workplaces without indoor plants are taking on the characteristics of, well, potted plants.
So says an Agricultural University of Norway study that followed 305 employees working in three offices that varied in the number of plants. The study concluded that the employees in the office with the most plants had lower stress levels and fewer absences. These employees also had more energy, fewer headaches, and moister skin.
Research co-sponsored by Ambius and Exeter University found employers can boost employee productivity 17% simply by introducing indoor plants to the workspace. There's improved productivity "when you allow employees to have some input and some say into their workspace environment," says Todd Ferguson, managing director at Ambius, a company that sells interior foliage and art displays to businesses.
Plants, however, are on the list of things most likely to get weeded from company budgets during a recession. In 2009, "we did see some of those knee-jerk reactions taking place," Ferguson says. But he has seen a pickup in corporate plant purchases over the last eight weeks. "Managers are saying, 'Okay, I've cut down to my minimum level that I can maintain now and so how do I make sure that I keep those employees happy?'"
Ferguson sees employers going for bold plants that are strategically placed around the office. In the 1980s "there might have been plants on every square inch of the building. The thought was that having a lot of plants around was the way to go," Ferguson says. "But what we're seeing now is that having a more dramatic plant is more important than having a lot of plants." Swooping palm trees with arching fronds are popular for office lobbies, while plants with intense colors are popping up between cubicles.
So if the Great Recession has sown the seeds of employee dysfunction in your office, adding some indoor greenery might help people's good moods flower once again and fertilize their productivity levels. A company can boost its return on investment by giving employees some choice in the plants they'll see every day. "What the research shows is that when you allow employees to have a say in what those plants [are], then the effect is almost double," Ferguson says.
For more information as well as research, check out the Prism site.
Now if employers will get to work on that yucky overhead fluorescent lighting...