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How to increase productivity and happiness in the workplace with plants

In this guest blog, Blooming Artificial's Alick Burnett discusses the green vs lean office philosophy, and how the presence of foliage (and even 'fauxliage') can create calmer, more productive environments.

Lean offices, those void of plants, pictures and other personal touches, are becoming ‘toxic wastelands’ for productivity according to a recent psychological study. The modern office-management system of stripping away 'unnecessary details' with no formal work function is having a disastrous impact on staff morale and productivity.

Conversely, the green office philosophy - adding greenery, photographs or even changes in light or scent to office spaces - is thought to increase productivity by up to 15% as well as boosting overall staff morale and satisfaction. In a field study conducted across different commercial workplaces in the UK and the Netherlands, employees, who were previously working in lean office environments, reported an increase in memory retention and overall performance when their offices had plant life introduced to them.

The study also revealed that it is important to get the placement correct when looking to bring plant life into a work environment. The field study placed plants at roughly one per square meter in commercial offices, although the emphasis was on every employee being able to see a plant from their desk or workstation.

It is thought that plants can have such a positive impact on the workplace because they improve both the air quality and the employee’s perception of how much their employer cares about their wellbeing, as well as giving them something to psychologically engage with. Employees who feel engaged with their environment are believed to be happier and more productive than those that do not.

Despite these benefits, one of the reasons a lean office space can be more appealing is that keeping plant life happy in a work environment can be tricky. Offices bring challenges such as low light levels, irregular temperatures, due to heating and air conditioning, and fluctuating staff members who may forget to water the office greenery. So, if you are looking to transition to a greener working environment, what are the best plants to use to create a happier and healthier work place, and how do you maintain them?

The best plants to use in office spaces

It is important to choose your plants wisely and ensure that they are species that are likely to thrive in the specific conditions of your office. We have compiled a list of easy to maintain indoor plants to compliment a variety of office types.

The peace lily

The peace lily is an excellent, low-maintenance option for a desk plant. Their elegant white blossoms contrast beautifully with their deep, green leaves making them an aesthetically appealing addition to a workspace. They are also relatively forgiving when it comes to watering; if found to be wilting they can often be revived with a good dose of water.

Being accustomed to cooler environments and indirect sunlight, Peace Lilies can cope well with a low-light environment and will be more robust in the presence of air conditioning units. Peace Lilies are also heralded as being air purifiers due to their ability to filter certain toxins from the environment around them, as well as being good oxygenators too.

Areca palm

Also known as a butterfly palm or a golden cane palm, this plant is another great option for improving the air quality of the office. Areca palms like bright environments, but do not do well in direct sunlight, making them a suitable choice for moderately-lit workspaces. They are, however, less tolerant of neglectful watering and will lose their tropical appeal quickly if the soil is not kept moist.

English ivy

Ivy is a robust and resilient plant, making it a strong contender for growing in challenging environments. English ivy is believed to help remove chemicals such as formaldehyde (often found in cleaning products) from the air. Like the areca palm, it enjoys bright, but indirect light and is even known to thrive under fluorescent lighting – perfect for even the dingiest of office corners.

Artificial plants

If your office space has proven to be more of a plant graveyard than an urban jungle, it may be worth incorporating a few artificial office plants into the mix. Faux plants have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and many replica plants are virtually indistinguishable from their real counterparts.

Although they won’t have the air-purifying properties of a regular plant, realistic ‘fauxliage’ can still have the morale boosting impact of making an office appear like a more verdant space. In fact, if there are areas in your workplace that will wither a plant no matter how much care and attention you afford it, swapping it for an artificial alternative may be a good idea – after all, wilting plants could have the opposite effect on productivity than intended.

No matter which plants you pick: real, faux or a blend of both, the consensus is that, when it comes to office décor, sometimes less is just less and any investment in improving the workplace will ultimately pay dividends in terms of your staff’s morale, wellbeing and productivity.