Office Plants – 14 reasons why plants improve office life

Are you sitting in a highly lit, hot, sterile office with no plants? Ask your nearest team-mates whether, given the choice, they would prefer to have some greenery. I promise you the majority would vote for office plants. Ask the decision maker in the company the same question. The answer will probably be “You’ll be lucky. We’re trying to cut costs. Plants are a luxury we can’t afford at the moment. Ask me next year!” But there is a strong business case for having plants in the workplace. After all, the human race evolved surrounded by its natural flora and fauna.

How many of us spend our leisure time walking in the countryside? Or looking after our own gardens? Or even just watching one of the myriad gardening programmes on TV? The fact is we like plants. There’s tons of evidence that plants act like mini air-filters, adjusting and cleaning the air. They absorb carbon dioxide and other unpleasant chemicals.

More importantly, we feel generally more positive and motivated with them around. That’s a pretty sound reason for having plants in our working environment. But there are other benefits.

Office plants reduce noise and dust levels. According to the Organisation for Responsible Business, just ‘one plant for every three people is enough to see a profound effect, significantly reducing noise in the office’. And in a study at Washington State University, plants reduced dirt and dust in the air by as much as 20%.

Office plants also help humidify our office air, which is all too often dried out and over heated by air conditioning units. Their ability to ‘transpire’ creates an indoor humidity level matching our human comfort zone of 30-60% humidity.

What’s more if you’re looking to increase productivity in your department, then invest in some houseplants. Recent research by The Leesman Index (largest independent database of workplace effectiveness data) revealed that having greenery in the office boosts output by 15%. Just one plant per square meter improves productivity. Furthermore, tests in two ‘lean, stark’ offices in the UK and Netherlands found that installing plants significantly increased workplace satisfaction, levels of focus and perceived air quality.

Here are 14 good reasons office plants make work life better

  1. Plants help to reduce absence from minor ailments often linked to sick building syndrome, such as headaches, coughs and fatigue. Interior planting can reduce short-term employee absenteeism by 10% University of Life Sciences, Norway
  2. NASA scientists studied houseplants as a way to purify the air in space stations. They found that plants filter out VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from the air. Everyone should have a plant on his or her desk, within their personal breathing zone Dr Bill Wolverton, NASA Research Team
  3. Plants absorb office pollutants into their leaves, taking them into their roots and cleaning contaminated air. Just one plant can clean 30m2 of air
  4. The more plants workers see, the less sick leave they take. Interior planting can reduce short term employee absenteeism by 10% 2011 study by environmental psychology expert Dr Tina Bringlismark, University of Life Sciences, Norway
  5. Just being able to see office plants from your desk can reduce sick leave. People believe plants are healthier and are likely to evaluate their own health more optimistically Dr Tina Bringlismark, University of Life Sciences, Norway
  6. Plants reduce the physical symptoms of stress by 50% Just one plant makes a difference 2010 Research by plant specialist Dr Margaret Burchett
  7. The same study found that plants significantly reduce anger, depression, confusion and fatigue. No wonder green is the colour of ‘calm’ in colour therapy.
  8. Plants at work or school help to improve concentration and productivity by as much as 15%. Intentionally bringing elements of the outdoors indoors can boost work output by 15%, Tim Oldman, CEO of Leesman – survey of over 200,000 employees worldwide, the largest independent database of workplace effectiveness data.
  9. Plants can be used effectively to absorb noise in open plan offices. Strategically placed plants quieten down an office. Their leaves absorb, deflect and refract sound; plants also absorb smells. A small indoor hedge or partition will reduce noise by 5 decibels Dr Helen Russell & Dr David Uzzell, University of Surrey
  10. Tropical plants raise the humidity level of a building. They release moisture into the air through the process called transpiration, when moisture evaporates from the leaves. This can warm a room in winter and cool a room in summer, improving comfort for employees.
  11. In summer, plant displays can be used for shading and cooling (saving money on the size of air conditioning systems). The net cooling effect of one tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day International Society of Arboriculture.
  12. In reverse, plants that shed their leaves can allow sun into a building during winter, reducing the cost of heating bills. Proper selection and placement of plants can lower heating and cooling costs by as much as 20% Associated Landscape Contractors of America
  13. Plants help to stop us sneezing because they make the air more humid. Dust contains allergens, which can lead to tickly coughs, colds and headaches when we breathe them in. When the air is moister, the dust particles sink to the floor so there are less to inhale.
  14. Plants in the workspace are cost effective. Just £10 a week can get you enough plant displays for a reception and a couple of meeting rooms. Your supplier will look after them for that price too.

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