Fail to Plant, Plan to Fail

The Benefits of Having Plants in the Office

Take a moment to glance around your office. If (other than people) all you can see are clean, angular lines with minimalist hi-tech additions, or stacks of box files, papers, stationery and the odd industry award – basically, nothing organic save for Dave’s half-eaten breakfast burrito – you probably haven’t heard about the many benefits of office plant life (and that’s not a disparaging nickname for interns).

Yes, plants can transform office interiors into a more tranquil and appealing workspace, but the positives certainly don’t begin and end there…


Straight to the money

Okay, you’re a business – let’s get down to brass tacks. From a purely economic perspective, ‘green offices’ simply mean more profit for your business. This is achieved through higher levels of productivity and creativity; lower levels of negative moods, emotions and behaviours; fewer instances of absenteeism (or ‘skiving’, as we called it at school) thus fewer lost-but-paid-for man-hours, and even reduced air-conditioning costs.

There have been numerous studies over the past two decades which give credence to the above claims, so let’s get into some of them in more detail.



A productive office is a profitable office, and all other things being equal, businesses that embrace the hidden powers of our leafy friends will prosper over those that do not. In 2014 psychologists from Exeter University, led by Dr Chris Knight, concluded following a 10 year study that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a smattering of houseplants, as staff who actively engage with their surroundings are proven better workers (just make sure everyone is included  on the watering rota).

As well as this simple idea of engagement with surroundings, there is an equally simple link between plants and productivity: a productive brain needs oxygen, and thanks to the evolved, life-sustaining miracle that is photosynthesis, plants ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide and ‘breathe out’ oxygen, making for a fresher, more oxygen-rich atmosphere to work in – and come up with excellent ideas.


Stress and other demons

There’s a very good reason why green is the symbol of calm in holistic colour therapy. Plants have repeatedly been shown to help alleviate the physical symptoms of stress, such as high blood pressure, raised heart rates and even skin conductivity. In one study, mental arithmetic and computer tests were devised to increase adrenaline. Stress levels amongst the participants were measured before and directly after the tests, then again sometime later. For both computer test and mental arithmetic cases, where plants were present in the testing environment the physical indicators of heightened stress returned to normal more quickly than where plants were absent.



Furthermore, a 2010 study by Professor Margaret Burchett from University of Technology Sydney showed plants reduced stress by as much as 50% – one of several negative mood states to be affected by just a single plant either on or next to a desk (so it’s not necessary for your office fit out to resemble the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in order to reap the benefits).

Using the established POMS method (psychological survey questionnaires where participants have to indicate how they’ve been feeling for each of 65 words/statements), the professor’s team showed a mean average of reductions in negative mood states of between 40 – 60%, including:

  • Feelings of depression/dejection – 58%
  • Overall stress – 50%
  • Anxiety – 37%
  • Fatigue – 38%
  • Confusion – 30%
  • Anger – 44%
  • Overall negativity – 65%

NOTE: In the control group with no plants, overall stress levels rose by 20%


Befriend the environment

Aside from the above benefits to your business and staff, as a modern business you have a duty to wider society, both current and future generations, to reduce your carbon footprint. Our towns and cities simply must become greener to combat climate change, and what better place to start than in the office.

Office interiors are often overlooked when it comes to creating green spaces, and the fact of the matter is there are thousands of square miles of interior space in this country which could be used to help offset carbon emissions. Government figures have shown that emissions remain dangerously high in the UK, yet there are relatively few regulations to push businesses into action.



So don’t wait! Lead from the front, take that ethical high-ground (eco-credentials are great for PR as well as the environment, you know) and consider injecting some plant-based goodness into your workspace. 

For ideas about how to best integrate plants into your office layout or any other aspect of office refurbishment, workspace and commercial interior design, get in touch with us today.

Sources and further reading:

  1. Study by Margaret Burchett et al, University of Technology Sydney (YTS)
  2. Study by Environmental Psychologist Tina Brinslimark, researcher at the Agricultural University of Norway
  3. Paper: ‘What Are the Benefits of Plants Indoors and Why Do We Respond Positively to Them?’ Virginia I. Lohr, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Washington State University
  4. Report in The Guardian: ‘Plants in offices increase happiness and productivity’

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