We know plants are essential to have in any workplace. We love them from a design perspective, but there’s so much more to them than that! We caught up with Craig at Plant Plan who answered some questions we had about plants, health, and wellbeing.
AW: We know plants are good to have around, but what makes them so important to an office space?
Craig: We’re seeing 2 main reasons why companies are including planting and other green elements in their workspace. Firstly, it’s a very cost effective way of improving the look and feel of a workspace. With options such as rental of office plants there’s no big financial outlay, and they can be easily installed at any stage during the occupancy of a space. This flexibility and ease of implementation has been especially valuable to companies looking for ways to bring their office back into play post-covid. Secondly, there is the massive uptick in interest in wellbeing and workplace health. There are various studies done by universities to back this up, but overall planting and/or biophilic design has the ability to increase employee satisfaction, decrease mental health issues, and increase productivity! Combined these 2 facets give a pretty compelling business case for including planting in your workspace.
AW: You mentioned employee health – do you have any more specifics on this?
Craig: Yes, absolutely. These are both physical and psychological. So for physical we can look at how plants help remove toxins from the air while also increasing humidity. It’s a scary stat, but air in offices that are air-conditioned can be dryer than that in Death Valley. As humans we’re not great at coping in that scenario, hence why people often suffer from sore throats, nasal issues, and dry eyes when working inside an office. Plants release water vapour through their leaves, and can increase humidity within a room by up to 15%, helping to create an environment where people are more healthy, and by extension reducing time lost due to sickness. Likewise, by reducing toxins and dust in the air plants help combat the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).
From a psychological perspective there’s a few things to look at. Firstly, studies by the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia have shown that introducing planting into the workspace can increase positive feelings and reduce feelings of depression by 58%. Another study by the same institute found that employees working in areas with plants in felt 38% less fatigued! Take this further, and as the Human Spaces report into Biophilic Design found, staff entering ‘green’ spaces report feeling both happier and more inspired and the University of Exeter discovered that working in an environment with planting could give a 15% increase in productivity.
AW: So, we’re guessing that when people are healthier, they’ll work better won’t they?
Craig: That’s correct – sickness related absence and presenteeism costs the UK economy an estimated £80bn per annum, and by helping to overcome this planting can definitely help teams improve their performance. Obviously this needs to be part of an overall strategy, and plants are a magic wand that’ll miraculously fix every issue in your business, but they do definitely have a place in plans for improving workplace wellbeing, staff retention, and attracting talent into your organisation.
AW: Slight curveball here – do artificial/preserved plants carry any of the same benefits? Would you ever use them in a space?
Craig: We do use artificial planting in the workspace. Sometimes a space just is not suitable for live planting. Examples of this could be meeting rooms that are infrequently used and often in darkness so plants won’t survive. Another example would be a high level green ceiling feature. This is currently not practical using live planting, but can be easily created using replica. It’s pretty clear that using replica planting isn’t going to have all the health benefits of live planting, but you don’t lose everything. Going back to the Human Spaces report, and 88% of respondents to a survey done in 2004 reported that views of/access to natural elements improved their sense of wellbeing, so that can be achieved whether using live, replica, or preserved planting.
AW: Finally, any other fun facts or interesting things about plants for us to take away?
Craig: My wife isn’t impressed with my reading all the notice-boards but I recently visited the University of Cambridge Botanical Gardens and got my latest fun fact from one of their boards. There is more diversity in planting species on Table Mountain, South Africa than there is in the whole of the UK, which I think is incredible. It’s easy to just take nature for granted, but when you dig down into the detail there is a never ending stream of awesome information to find!