Lean V Green – Can Plants Really Increase Productivity?
There has been a trend in UK office design for a long time now for a very modern and very minimalistic look, with blank white walls and clean lines. Splashes of bold colours would be added for an ultra-stylish look; bold, lean and impressive to clients as they visited the office. More and more though there is a movement emerging in UK office design towards bringing both the home and the outdoors into the workplace, to create a more cosy and comfortable working environment. Cold, sterile workplaces are being replaced with warm colours, soft furnishings and an abundance of plants in an effort to increase happiness at work and boost productivity. The question is, can a few plants really increase productivity?
There was a study published in 2014 by Marlon Nieuwenhuis from Cardiff University, and Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University that states that, yes it does. Authored across 4 universities from the UK, Australia and the Netherlands, the study looked at the impact of offices which were enhanced with plants. It found that workplaces that had a plant in view of each employee – approximately one plant per square meter – were 15% more productive than their counterparts in ‘lean’ working environments.
The theory behind the findings is a simple one, if you put an animal into a sterile environment then they will be fundamentally unhappy, and people are no different. They thrive when in contact with nature and if we are happier, then we are also more productive. Participants in the study were significantly more contented at work and reported that they could concentrate better in a greener office environment and even thought that the air quality was better.
Other benefits which were reported in the study included an increase in employee engagement as they were more ‘physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work’. It also reported lower physiological stress, an increase in attention span and improved wellbeing.
Employers have a duty of care for their worker’s wellbeing while in the workplace, and plants can be a very simple and effective way to do exactly that. This does not need to involve any expensive redesign or restructure, as it can be as simple as having plants on desks and in common areas as well as having fresh flower arrangements in reception areas. Just these simple additions can make a significant impact on the happiness and productivity of people within the workplace.
It seems that although it is undisputable that lean working environments are both beautiful and stylish, in practice at our most basic level people like to have a splash of green around them and actually perform better when there is.