Whether it is a single plant on each desk or a lush common area atrium, the calming psychological aspect of interior plants has never been so acutely necessary in the workplace environment. No longer just a pretty face, plants are hard at work “de-stressing” offices throughout America.
Plants can decrease stress while enhancing productivity by as much as 12 percent.
Office anxiety levels are high as our current economy and security uncertainties place added stress on American workers. According to research conducted by marketing research firms, Integra Realty Resources, New York City, and Opinion Research Corp. International, Princeton, NJ, one out of eight workers has called in sick because of workplace stress.
It is widely known through the respected research done by Dr. Roger S. Ulrich of Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, and Helen Russell of University of Surrey, West Sussex, as well as the recent studies conducted by Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University, Pullman, WA, that plants significantly lower workplace stress and enhance productivity.
For example, Lohr’s study took place in a simulated office setting. A computer program that tested productivity and induced stress incorporated 100 symbols, and time-measured readings of participants’ reactions were taken as they reacted to the symbols. Blood pressure readings, emotional states, and pulses were also measured during the experiment.
The presence or absence of plants was the only variable that participants experienced. When plants were present, they were positioned so that a cluster would be in the peripheral view of each subject sitting at a computer terminal, without interfering with the subject’s activity. Lohr’s study showed that participants who worked in the presence of plants were less stressed and as much as 12 percent more productive than those who worked in an environment without plants.
The results, which indicated an influence of plants on blood pressure, are consistent with research conducted by Ulrich showing that visual exposure to plant settings has produced significant recovery from stress within five minutes.
As many performance-based incentives to enhance employee productivity also give rise to stress, the rare capability of raising productivity while lowering stress is extremely valuable. Progressive human resource executives and facility managers cannot afford to ignore such an efficient method of human asset management.
Plants in the workplace attract and retain employees by enhancing perception.
According to human resource experts, in order to attract and retain top employees, the workplace must include aspects of what inspires those employees during their “off” time. Gallop polls indicate that two-thirds of the American workforce cite gardening as their favorite hobby. Perhaps this “green thumb” passion explains why humanizing the workplace with green plants is a highly effective method of promoting employee satisfaction.
Mary Jane Gilhooley, based in Los Angeles, is the communications manager at Focal Point Communications and coordinator for the national Plants at Work information campaign based in Cincinnati, OH (www.plantsatwork.org).