Office plants are more than simple decorations

Office plants are as much a staple of the corporate world as seas of cubicles and casual Fridays, and a recent study determined they may have a function beyond decorating the office.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia and is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, is the first report to examine the effect of plants on the office environment. The researchers found that employees in offices that lacked greenery had a 15 percent increase in productivity once plants were introduced.

"A green office communicates to employees that their employer cares about them and their welfare," said Alex Haslam, the study's co-author and a psychology professor at the university. "Office landscaping helps the workplace become a more enjoyable, comfortable and profitable place to be."

Haslam went on to say the increase in productivity is the result of heightened happiness among employees. The outcome is that workers are more emotionally, physically and mentally involved in their work.

"Employees from previously lean office environments experienced increased levels of happiness, resulting in a more effective workplace," Haslam said.

Going against old thinking about offices
If you've ever worked in a drab office, it wasn't solely because your boss wanted to create a professional work environment for his or her employees. In the past, many researchers argued that a stripped-down office space, which the study described as "lean," was better for productivity. The study's findings seem to contradict that notion.

The researchers examined workers in two large commercial offices - one in the U.K. and the other in the Netherlands. The employees were assessed for a two-month period and questioned regarding their perceptions of workplace satisfaction, air quality and concentration. Despite what the corporate world would assume, the addition of plants led to marked improvement for all three dimensions.

A January report from Entrepreneur agreed with the study's conclusion. The biophilia hypothesis, which says humans are instinctively connected to other living systems and has been around since 1984, speaks to the human need to be near nature.

"Our human responses to nature, be it a plant, fresh air or a view of the sky are shown to have enormous influence over our stress level, as well as our performance," Scott Wyatt, a managing partner at global architectural firm NBBJ, told Entrepreneur.

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