How Plants Increase Productivity in the Workplace

How Plants Increase Productivity in the Workplace

            The benefits of plants in worker productivity have been the subject of various studies. While many office workers claim that having plants in the work area somehow produce a positive impact on their mental and physical condition, the studies explokring the said impact remain limited. However, recent scientific researches carried out by professionals from different universities have shed more light on the impact of plants on employee productivity.[1] Hence, this paper seeks to explain how plants increase productivity in the workplace.

Tøve Fjeld and his colleagues (1994-1995) studied the effects of plants on the office workers health and feeling of discomfort. Unlike past studies which were focused on the physical effects of indoor plants among office workers, Fjeld and his associates observed the benefits of indoor plants on the psychological feelings of well-being among the subjects. The project was conducted at the Norwegian State Oil Company (Statoil), and 59 employees of the company who were working in office cubicles took part in the said experiment. Prior to the actual study, different health problems were observed among the employees. The symptoms included “fatigue, headache, dry facial skin, and dry skin on the hands, coughing, and eye irritation.”[2]  During the actual experiment, some participants were provided with varying interior plants. By the following periods of the project, significant improvements were observed. In the result of the study, the plants in the office considerably reduced the health problems experienced by the workers.

The findings also indicated that the overall symptoms were decreased to 25%. Fjeld and his co-authors concluded that plants have a specific impact on human well-being. Once an individual’s well-being is improved, his or her level of tolerance for irritation is improved as well.[3] In this regard, if the presence of plants works favorably for individuals, it is more likely that worker productivity will increase to a higher level due to the healthy workplace.

As the changes in the office environment often attributed to technological complexity continuously take place, stress-related disorders from work also increase. Thus, the need to further understand the relationship between an individual’s well-being and the plants is becoming equally important. The interaction of humans with greeneries, may it be passive or active, is said to affect changes in attitude, behavior, and psychological responses of individuals. Such perspective was confirmed in a study conducted by Virginia Lohr and associates involving a windowless work place. As stated by Lohr and her colleagues in their study, shortly after plants were positioned in the interior of the said windowless area, the participants became more productive, and the stress level was reduced. Lohr and company’s study substantiated the research done in Germany during the 1960’s which asserts that when plants are added in the office spaces, employees are more likely to improve their morale, reduce absenteeism, and increase their work efficiency compared to those individuals who work in a plant-less setting.[4]

In a symposium held in Netherlands, John Bergs further substantiated the contribution of plants in worker productivity. Berg’s findings appear to be parallel to the results of Fjeld’s study. However, Berg’s the most significant findings include the satisfaction of workers on the overall quality of the air circulating the office, improvement in employee productivity most especially for those people who are working at computer terminals, and the improved concentration of the employees.[5] To justify Berg’s findings, it should be noted that there are things inside the office environment that release particles, affecting air quality. These include printers, computer monitors, copiers, and upholstery, to name a few. What plants usually do is to reduce the concentration of potentially harmful substances in the air like carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, and benzene, which are considered as the primary contaminators of air through filtration. Along with the said facts are the various social science theories that were justified by studies which state that plants are an excellent investment because they promote an active and sterile working condition and creativity and serve as effective noise absorbers. Hence, employees who work in an office environment with plants tend to feel a special connection with the plants, allowing them to be inspired in their work, which in turn results in a healthier workplace.[6]

Different studies have proven that the interaction between people and plants promotes a positive impact on human well-being. Not only are these plants for curative purposes, but they are also for reinforcement of productivity. In working environments where task complexity may be observed as well as the presence of various factors that affect the physical conditions and job satisfaction of individuals, coming up with an ideal climate is not an easy thing to be accomplished. However, the availability of plants to create a healthy working environment stimulates various aspects in a busy setting that makes the office an inviting environment. At any rate, one can simply assume that placing plants within the workplace pays for itself not only because it serves as a decoration but also because its positive impact on health and its capability to maximize individual productivity provide an opportunity for anyone to enjoy the workplace and his or her job.

Bibliography

Bergs, J. ‘The Effect of Healthy Workplaces on the Well-being and Productivity of Office

Workers’ in Proceedings of Plants for People International Symposium, Floriade, Netherlands, 2002, <http://www.plants-in-buildings.com/documents/Symposium-Bergs.pdf?PHPSESSID=3587ad32a59e9a394118b462251eb3cd> (accessed 11 February 2009).

Fjeld, T.,  Veiersted, B., Sandvik, L. et al., ‘The effect of indoor foliage plants on health and     discomfort symptoms among office workers’, Indoor and Built Environment, Vol. 7, No. 4, 1996,  pp. 204-209.

Healthy Green at Work Organization. ‘Feeling at Home in the Workplace: The Advantages of   Plants in the Office’, Healthy Plants in the Workplace Brochure, n.d., pp. 4-5.

Lohr, V. I., Pearson-Mims, C. H., & Goodwin, G. K., ‘Interior Plants May Improve Worker      Productivity and Reduce Stress in a Windowless Environment,’ Journal of

Environmental Horticulture, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1996, pp. 97-100.

Lothian, M. ‘Why plants? Plants Reduce Stress and Increase Productivity in the Workplace’,    Plants-in-buildings.com, <http://www.plants-in-          buildings.com/whyplantsstressreduction.php>, 2009, (accessed 11 February 2009).

[1] Mike Lothian, ‘Why plants? Plants reduce stress and increase productivity in the workplace’, Plants-in-buildings.com, <http://www.plants-in-buildings.com/whyplantsstressreduction.php>, 2009, (accessed 11 February 2009).
[2] Tøve Fjeld, Bo Veiersted, Leiv Sandvik, et al., ‘The Effect of Indoor Foliage Plants on Health and Discomfort Symptoms Among Office Workers’, Indoor and built environment, Vol. 7, No. 4, 1996, p. 208.
[3] Ibid.

[4] Virginia I. Lohr, Caroline H. Pearson-Mims, and Georgia K. Goodwin, Interior plants may improve worker productivity and reduce stress in a windowless environment, Journal of Environmental Horticulture, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1996, p. 97
[5] John Bergs, ‘The Effect of Healthy Workplaces on the Well-being and Productivity of Office

Workers’ in Proceedings of Plants for People International Symposium, Floriade, Netherlands, 2002, <http://www.plants-in-buildings.com/documents/Symposium-Bergs.pdf?PHPSESSID=3587ad32a59e9a394118b462251eb3cd> (accessed 11 February 2009).
[6] Healthy Green at Work Organization, ‘Feeling at Home in the Workplace: The Advantages of Plants in the Office’, Healthy Plants in the Workplace Brochure, n.d., pp. 4-5

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