With the number of people living in an urban environment around the world rising rapidly, you might believe that as a species we are increasingly choosing the grey and manmade environs of our cities. After all, policy makers the world over are trying to brand their cities as creative hubs that see citizens rubbing together and bouncing ideas off of one another in a variety of industrial clusters.
A new study suggests, however, that we shouldn’t rule out the impact of a bit of greenery to our productivity. It suggests that a green and pleasant office can make employees an impressive 15% more productive than its more spartan brethren.
The researchers asked participants in the study, plucked from two large office facilities in the UK and the Netherlands, their perceptions of the impact of a bit of greenery in the office on things such as air quality, employee engagement, concentration levels and even productivity.
The importance of plant life
The researchers, from Cardiff University, explained the importance of their study: "Our research suggests that investing in landscaping the office with plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity."
"Although previous laboratory research pointed in this direction, our research is, to our knowledge, the first to examine this in real offices, showing benefits over the long term. It directly challenges the widely accepted business philosophy that a lean office with clean desks is more productive."
The study was quite unequivocal in its results, with employee engagement, concentration levels and perceived air quality all rising after the introduction of plants into the office.
The air quality issue is probably self explanatory, but the researchers suggest that a greener office benefits engagement and concentration because it makes employees more physically, emotionally and cognitively involved in the work they’re doing. Heady claims indeed.
The researchers suggested that the lean culture that is popular in business at the moment has often led to office spaces being overly spartan environments. "The ’lean’ philosophy has been influential across a wide range of organisational domains. Our research questions this widespread conviction that less is more. Sometimes less is just less," they say.
Adding plants however, can be an extremely cost effective way of obtaining some quite sizeable improvements. "Simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15% - a figure that aligns closely with findings in previously conducted laboratory studies. This conclusion is at odds with the present economic and political zeitgeist as well as with modern ’lean’ management techniques, yet it, nevertheless, identifies a pathway to a more enjoyable, more comfortable and a more profitable form of office-based working," they conclude.
Of course, the notion that plants boost our well being is perhaps not a new finding, but the researchers believe that theirs is the first study to show the real and tangible impact this could have in an actual workplace environment. They believe, therefore, that this could offer tangible insights to the workspace design and management profession.
How green is your own office workspace? Would your bosses consider having more greenery where you work?