Lean and minimal office space designs are in! They are cost-effective, positively impact employee concentration due to less clutter, and enable more employee conversation. This is the whole impetus behind open work spaces. But, in this trend, we’ve missed out on a crucial design element: plants.

In a first of its kind, 18-month long field study, researchers found that enriching a lean office with plants increases overall employee productivity by 15%. Not just that. According to psychologist Chris Knight from Exeter University, offices devoid of pictures, souvenirs, and plants, are toxic for employee well-being.

Collaborating with academics from universities in Australia, the UK, and the Netherlands, Knight visited workplaces in the Netherlands and London to study how greenery could improve performance. The result:

  1. 15% more work output as a result of faster reaction time, and better concentration levels.
  2. Reduced stress due to lower systolic blood pressure levels, as found by the Washington State University.
  3. Improved air quality. Air-conditioned offices can contain ten times more pollutants than outside: mold, dust mites, etc. Plants remove harmful pollutants, and stabilize humidity levels.
  4. Changed room acoustics by reduced reverberation time, hence lowered distraction.
  5. Neuropsychological challenges like fatigue and headaches lessened by 23% – 30%.
  6. Overall drop in sick leave. Employees reported lesser cough, sore throat, or stuffy nose.

All this, just by adding one plant per square meter of the office space.

Knight says, “If you put an ant into a ‘lean’ jam jar, or a gorilla in a zoo into a ‘lean’ cage – they’re miserable. People in lean offices are no different.” And, it is simple to change this experience. The Regent’s Place recommends a plant for every 8 employees. Just make sure every desk has a plant visible.

Wondering which plants to get? Here’s something to start with:

  • Air purifiers. These plants cleanse the air of toxins like benzene, or formaldehyde. They boost relative humidity and decrease dust. Examples: Peace Lily, Gerber, and Spider Plant.
  • Low-light plants. Since office spaces mostly receive indirect light, get plants like Snake plant, Parlor, and Ferns, that are ideal for low-light regions. Though, they need appropriate watering.
  • Low-maintenance. These would need both low light, and low watering. ZZ plant, Jade, Philodendron, and Cacti, have succulent, waxy leaves which don’t dry out easily. And they purify!

As Knight said, sometimes less is just less. Humans are meant to seek and survive in nature. The more removed we are from it, the harder it is to function well.

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