How bringing nature into your office could change work outcomes

How bringing nature into your office could change work outcomes

Office – Workplace September 2017

Space Race

It may seem all a bit “new age”, but studies have shown time and again that introducing plants to the workplace environment can not only make the space look better, it can make employees happier and more productive.

As journalist and author Richard Louv claims: “the more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2014, compared austere office environments with “green” ones in the UK and The Netherlands.

Results from that research showed that investing in office landscaping improved office workers' quality of work life and, their productivity increased by 15 percent.

There’s no need to go “full green”, as varying studies have shown that even a few strategically placed pot plants can do the trick – and you can outsource the supply and upkeep if you don’t have green fingers.

Living green walls or vertical gardens are increasingly being factored into new-build office environments and they can also be installed in existing buildings without too much hassle.

These feature walls are aesthetically pleasing, improve air quality and can bolster employees’ alertness and energy levels.

Plants act as a natural air-filtration system, releasing oxygen into the workplace and contributing to a cleaner, purer work environment. The effects of man-made toxins in an office – created by paint, furniture, plastics, and carpets – can also be minimised by plants.

One of Australia’s leading universities of technology, UTS in Sydney, found in a 2010 study that indoor plants can remove pollutants, cleanse stale air and reduce symptoms such as headaches, sore eyes, loss of concentration and feelings of “stuffiness”.

The closing statement of that study reads: “this study shows that just one plant per work space can provide a very large lift to staff spirits, and so promote wellbeing and performance.”

A University of Michigan study showed “being under the influence of plants” can increase memory retention up to 20 percent – another bonus.

Plants cool via a process called evapotranspiration, which decreases the air temperature in offices while releasing moisture to create a more comfortable, ambient atmosphere. Natural air-conditioning, if you like.

Living structures can also reduce noise levels in buildings with vegetation known to naturally block high frequency sounds, while the (usually) wooden support structure can help absorb low frequency noise. With a trend towards large expanses of hard surfaces in newer commercial buildings, living walls can help mitigate the noise associated with tiled, concrete, marble or wooden floors.

So, to summarise, here are just some of the benefits – perceived or otherwise – of having greenery in the office:

• A more pleasant environment to work in

• A welcoming environment for clients

• Reduced sickness and absence

• Cleaner air to breathe

• Increased creativity and concentration levels

• You and your staff will look healthier – the more humid atmosphere won’t dry out the skin like artificial air-con

• Reduced dust and bacteria levels

• Better mood and well-being

• Lower tension and anxiety levels

Remember to choose low-allergen plants that don’t release pollen into the air so as not to send hay-fever prone employees into a spin…

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