Managing Wellness

What Are the Benefits of Plants in the Office?


  • Modern workplaces are increasingly adding plants to boost productivity and happiness—a concept known as biophilic design

  • Scientific research on the benefits of houseplants for health and wellness dates back to 1980s studies by NASA

  • Plants in the office are a cost-effective way to minimize noise, but they may trigger the allergies of some employees

Posted by February 25, 2020

There’s a new buzz phrase popping into workplace productivity conversations: biophilic design. This trending interior design concept aims to transform offices into happy, efficient and thriving spaces by harnessing the power of nature.

By immersing employees in more natural environments, with limited artificial light and plenty of greenery, small business owners provide a calming environment that may boost wellness and productivity—and, in turn, their bottom lines.

But what are the benefits of plants in the office? And is there a business case for turning your modern space into a haven for a horticulturist?

The Benefits of Plants in the Office: What Does Science Say?

Although the term biophilic design is relatively new, the concept itself is not. In fact, NASA has been studying plants’ potential to improve indoor living conditions for some time. In 1989, their researchers found that introducing plants into a contained environment can eliminate thousands of chemical particles from the air.

More recently, Dr. John La Puma spoke about the mental health benefits of office plants. “Plants improve productivity in office workers, especially desk plants,” he said at the annual MacLean Fellows conference in 2019. He also touted several other benefits of plants, including their:

  • Ability to improve work environments through better physical indoor air quality, less dust and superior office acoustics.

  • Positive effects on overall well-being, such as increased positivity, reduced stress and fewer instances of burnout.

How to Bring the Outside In—and Why You Should

Not only does adding a few plants make your office look more inviting, but doing so can also jump-start productivity. According to Deborah Choi, founder of Horticure, “A connection to nature triggers the relaxation of our prefrontal cortex, which enables creativity and flow to happen.” Her company specializes in biophilic design, bringing plants straight to offices and other indoor spaces via an easy online order form.

One of the ways plants do this is by reducing noise distraction. Consider using fresh plants in your office as noise-muffling dividers between desks or workstations, ditching dull and uninviting cubicles.

Besides reducing noise and purifying the air, plants just make us happier, explained Sara Abate Rezvanifar of Ambience, an interior design firm that specializes in workplace wellness. “It is the variation in patterns, textures and colors of nature that brings us pleasure,” she said. “It is clear that bringing plants into the workplace has a strong, measurable impact on key outcomes such as well-being, productivity and creativity.”

So instead of hiring an expensive muralist or taking on a pricey lease solely for its exposed brick, why not use plants to spice up your space? Vine plants can be used as a natural alternative to string lights, for instance, and colorful flowers or cacti can be handed out as appealing desk decorations.

Not sure where to begin? Dark green can help with relaxation, said Rezvanifar, while green-yellow is linked to excitement and red can help to improve concentration.

Be Mindful of Allergies, Though

Incorporating elements of nature into the workspace can be great for some but detrimental to others. Enter allergies. Before incorporating a slew of new plants into your space, you’ll want to consider how they may affect your employees. For instance, a beautiful plant could send someone into a sneezing frenzy, leaving them miserable and their peers distracted.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, there’s a wide variety of hypoallergenic trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers you can embrace in your biophilic design. Consider picking your favorite 10 plants and then polling your office to see which they’d happily welcome. Leave a spot for an open-ended reply so that anyone truly averse to incorporating more natural elements feels respected and heard.

As an employer, you’ll want your office to be a nurturing space for all your employees. Infusing more nature may be just the thing to boost productivity, but as with any big office adjustment, you’ll want to check the pulse of your staff first. After all, though plants are a more cost-effective solution than some other office improvements, they’re just a waste of money if they quickly wind up in the trash.

For more tips on how to ignite creativity and productivity at your office, check out these articles from United Concordia Dental.

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