The quest to design the perfect workspace, one that keeps management and employees happy, is never ending as new office furniture, cubicles and layouts are toyed with. The latest idea being touted in that putting potted plants in the workplace will make workers happy and boost their productivity.
Psychologists have found that simply by adding greenery in an office management can raise output. Sprucing up drab interiors and rows of dull cubicles often found in a boring, sterile workplace these days by adding green plant life can add to the bottom line.
A recent study, the first to look at long-term impacts of plant life in offices, shows that adding plants around an office can make a difference. In fact, psychologists found that adding greenery around formerly drab, spartan workplaces led to a 15 percent rise in output within three months. Staff powers of concentration and general job satisfaction also increased.
Workers and researchers also reported that the air quality in office environment also improved. This probably occurred because the foliage absorbs dust, pollutants and bugs from the air.
Published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the research was conducted by international research teams from four universities’ psychology departments. The researchers monitored productivity in three large commercial office spaces in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands over a several month period. Leafy plants that were on average 3-feet tall were added at a rate of approximately one plant for every square meter of space. The researchers made sure that everybody in the workplaces could see a plant from their desk.
For years, lean office management principles pushed by interior designers suggested that extraneous decorations around an office should be stripped away to be less distracting. However, this study’s finding contradicted that theory. It showed that adding plants, which have no work-related function, makes the workplace a more cozy, homey place. The greenery appears to make the environment more enjoyable, per the study data.
Cardiff University’s Marlon Nieuwenhuis, who served as lead researcher, noted that their data shows that investing in office landscaping pays off by improving workers’ daytime quality of life, which leads to improved productivity.
One theory is that a desk and computer are not enough. People tend to work better in pleasant office environments. This is partly because the environment gives the impression that management is investing in their employees’ welfare, creating a subconscious incentive to work hard on the company’s behalf.
Study author Alex Haslam, who is a University of Queensland psychology professor, proposed that a green office communicates to workers that their management cares about them and their welfare. Haslam also suggested that a green workplace enabled workers to be more physically, emotionally and mentally involved in their output.
The University of Exeter’s Dr. Craig Knight, who also worked on the study, added that studying real workplaces and real jobs will help improve existing workspace design and management.
While they studied plants, it remains to be seen in future research whether merely allowing employees to personalize their space and spruce cubicles with art or mementos, which is allows in many workplaces, makes a difference too.
By Dyanne Weiss