What if I told you that there was a way for you to increase your productivity at the office, something you could do that would make you more creative, more innovative, more sympathetic with your coworkers, less stressed out, and less likely to get the common cold? What if I told you that not only is all of the above true, but that you could make the necessary changes to put your career on this exciting new path right now? Would you think I was selling snake oil and tell me to shut up? Would others reach for their wallets, the same way they did when they heard about a miracle weight loss pill that would shed 20 pounds of body fat without any diet or exercise? (If you’re one of these people, don’t forget that gullible is written on the ceiling). Whatever your likely reaction, hold off on making your judgment, because not only is everything I’m saying true, it has been proven by science. I’m talking about something simple, pretty, and green: Houseplants. That’s right, people, a multitude of studies have shown that keeping house plants on your desk and around your office can increase your productivity, critical thinking, and creativity as much as 47%.
Minimalist, so-called lean offices have been en vogue for quite some time. The thinking was that an office devoid of decoration was one free of distraction, and it meant that different employees or groups could be shuffled in and out of the office as easily as possible. That thinking is challenged, however, by studies conducted by NASA, The University of Exeter, and Texas A&M University. All 3 studies have concluded that having house plants in and around the office can increase worker productivity, make the office a more people-friendly environment, and even clean the air of common pollutants.
At worst, the office is analogous with a cage, or an enclosed habitat where the average American worker is obligated to spend much of their time. While harsh, this analogy can help us understand why having house plants around increase productivity. If a great ape is placed in a zoo enclosure with no pleasant reminders of home, it will be sad, sluggish, and it will be impossible to observe the ape at its best, because it feels so confined. In the same way, a worker in a lean office, empty of anything pleasant or distracting, will have trouble working at his/her full potential. As Dr. Roger Urlich, from Texas A&M said in his study on the topic, “We know the importance of learning, for example, how natural surroundings affect drivers, school children, and hospital patients. To businesses, it should be equally as important to understand what features can improve performance at work and make employees more productive.”
Having plants doesn’t just create better workers by helping our emotional well-being, they also have a measurable impact on our physical health.One disturbing realization from the NASA study is that most offices are likely to have formaldehyde in the air because the glue from particle board furniture and carpeting gives off the chemical. Houseplants around the office clean up the formaldehyde and any other chemicals that may be floating around in the air we breathe from 9 to 5. These chemicals can increase our stress levels, give us headaches, and in general make us less pleasant to be around. Plants help keep the air in offices humid, which in the average, climate-controlled workspace means less dry skin, less congestion, and even fights off the common cold. In short, the introduction of house plants into an office makes for happier, healthier workers, who are more likely to think in innovative, creative ways which, by any measure is a recipe for increased productivity and a stronger business over all.
So do your mind, body, and future earning potential a favor and go get some houseplants for your office right now. It doesn’t even matter if your desk doesn’t get much natural light, because plants like Peace Lilies, Dracaenas and Golden Pathos can all thrive in a low light, office environment. Make some room on that desk!