Guest Post from Exubia
For thousands of years, the natural ecosystems that surround our local areas have decided what industries we work in, our traditions, clothing and culture, methods of transport, sources of energy, and even what food and drink we consume.
In today’s day and age, we are increasingly separated from nature and as a result of this many of us have turned to office plants to fill the natural void in our lives.
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Stress, Anxiety and Depression are at the forefront of the current mental health crisis we’re facing. In fact, Deloitte estimate that these are the primary causes of around 50% of the sick leave taken annually in the U.K. Tackling these problems should be a key concern for both employees and employers alike, especially seeing as absenteeism related to mental health is predicted to cost the economy around £45 billion a year.
The humble office plant, it seems, maybe part of the solution to this growing problem – a study from The University of Hyogo in Japan conducted over four weeks found that around 27% of participants experienced a significant drop in pulse rate (a strong indicator of stress and anxiety levels) when office plants were introduced to their workspace. The large majority of respondents who were given office plants also self-reported lower levels of psychological stress and anxiety even if their pulse rate did not drop significantly.
Beyond stress and anxiety, plants can also reduce levels of depression. Researchers from The University of Technology in Sydney found that when indoor plants were introduced to an occupant’s space, self-reported symptoms of depression dropped on average in the space by 58%.
Researchers from Chungnam National University in Korea hypothesise that this is due to the ability of indoor plants to help suppress the sympathetic nervous system – in turn reducing psychological and physiological stress, anxiety and depression.
Beyond stress and anxiety, the research also seems to indicate that plants can boost creativity. A study covering 16 countries and 7,600 office workers found that employees whose offices included natural elements consistently scored 15% higher for creativity when tested against those whose offices didn’t contain any natural elements.
This can likely be explained by the attention restoration theory developed by researchers Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. The theory proposes that spending time in nature or even looking at images of nature can have a powerful effect when it comes to reducing mental fatigue and restoring mental focus which, in turn, leads to increased creativity.
And how about productivity? Well, a study conducted in 2014 by the University of Exeter showed that employees were up to 38% more productive when plants were introduced into their workspace.
It has been suggested that improved employee productivity and attention can be attributed to the air-purifying qualities of plants in the workplace which can led to a reduction in symptoms of various allergies, irritations, hypersensitivity, asthma, drowsiness, and eye problems, while also improving mood.
What about the downsides?
It may seem like introducing plants in an office is a sure-fire way to make employees happier, more productive and more creative across the board. However, a survey of around 2000 participants actually found that around 19% of those tasked with caring and maintenance for plants actually find the experience more stressful than the prospect of undergoing root canal surgery.
So are office plants the way to a happier and more productive work life? Well the science seems to suggest so – we’d recommend letting us maintain them for you, though.