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Indoor Plants Are Good For Business

A popular design philosophy in the business world holds that a minimalist office with clear desks and plain walls will help streamline operations and maximise productivity. However, a study from an international team of researchers has found that adding some greenery to an office will improve employee engagement and job satisfaction, and enhance performance.

In a series of experiments, psychological researchers Alex Haslam (University of Queensland), Marlon Nieuwenhuis (Cardiff University), Craig Knight (University of Exeter), and Tom Postmes (University of Groningen) discovered that office workers who have plants in their offices not only report higher workplace satisfaction, they also have higher productivity.

“The ‘lean’ philosophy has been influential across a wide range of organizational domains,” Professor Alex Haslam said. “Our research questions this widespread conviction that less is more. Sometimes less is just less.”

In one experiment, Professor Haslam and his colleagues installed leafy plants in half of an office and left the other half lean and bare. Three weeks later, employees in the green section felt that their productivity and concentration had improved. They also reported that they felt aware of an improvement in air quality.

In another experiment, one floor of a large call-centre was outfitted with plants so that each worker had a clear view of at least one leafy plant. Another floor of the call-centre was left in its original minimalist design. A fortnight after the plants had been installed, and again after 14 weeks, 81 employees were asked to rate their perception of air quality, level of disengagement, job satisfaction, and ability to concentrate. Those on the plantscaped floor reported that they felt the air quality had improved. They also reported lower levels of disengagement and improved job satisfaction.

The researchers conducted a third experiment with the aim of objectively measuring the effect of a plantscaped office on employee performance. Thirty-three subjects completed two tasks in either a plantscaped or a lean workspace. Those in the plantscaped environment finished their tasks more swiftly and without any increase in errors.

The research team concluded that compared to a minimalist office a plantscaped environment is more enjoyable for employees, more productive, and more conducive to concentration. They write in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, ‘… simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15% – a figure that aligns closely with findings in previously conducted laboratory studies.

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