A new study by researchers from the universities of Cardiff, Exeter, Queensland and Groningen was published this month found that productivity can be increased by 15% in offices featuring “lean” designs by the addition of plant life. The researchers conducted the study in an office in the Netherlands and an office in the UK for multiple months. With the addition of plants in their offices, study participants completed tasks faster without comprising their quality of work.
Since the study was first published by the American Psychological Association, news media outlets such as Time, Huffington Post and The Guardian have featured stories about plants and productivity helping to raise public consciousness of the true impact plants can make in office settings. Lead researcher, Marlon Nieuwenhuis of Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, said: “Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.” In addition to the productivity benefits, the study also found that participants experienced a 40% increase in workplace satisfaction.
This recent study confirms the findings of many other research projects in recent decades that have found similar results. A study by Washington State University in 1996 found that study participants completed computer tasks 12% quicker in offices with plants than in offices devoid of greenery.
The power of plants is not confined to offices. For example, A postgraduate study carried out in a London hospital in 1995 provided clear evidence that people do react more favorably to a building when it contains plants than when it does not. Hospital visitors were asked to respond to a descriptive choice test using twenty pairs of bipolar adjectives (quiet v noisy, cheerful v gloomy etc.). The results showed that when plants were present in the reception area of the hospital, users perceived it to be:
17% more interesting
17% more cheerful
16% more welcoming
15% more relaxing
11% less stressful
11% more expensive
These findings echo Edward O. Wilson’s beliefs when he popularized the term, Biophilia, which is used described humanity’s innate need for nature. Why do so many people keep plants on their desks? While we spend hours upon hours indoors shut off from nature, it is refreshing to have some presence of nature in our workplace whether that be a small potted plant on your desk or a full atrium teeming with a vibrant interior landscape.
As the scientific evidence of the benefits of office plants continues to be gathered, businesses with lean designs should reconsider their approaches to their workplaces and invest in strengthening their employees’ connection to nature.
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