Stress in the workplace is common. According to the American Institute of Stress, 80 percent of workers experience on-the-job stress. What’s more, 40 percent of employees said their job is “very” or “extremely” stressful. As a manager, you want your people to be happy and engaged—not tense and checked out. You’ll be glad to know that adding office plants to your space can reduce employee stress.
Office plants affect workers physiologically and psychologically.
Many studies have found that plants can decrease stress levels in the workplace. The “why” boils down to this: Plants affect human beings both physiologically and psychologically. And there’s a connection between the two.
Plants clean the air.
From a physiological standpoint, plants clean the air. About 45 years ago, environmental scientist Bill Wolverton partnered with NASA to study plants’ ability to clean wastewater. He found that water hyacinth—with its large, tentacle-like root system—could replace a traditional septic system.
Wolverton was even able to prove that plants could combat Sick Building Syndrome. He added lots of plants to a tightly sealed building made of synthetic materials. By doing so, he removed most of the volatile organic compounds that had been making people sick.
In a work environment, houseplants can remove airborne toxins. Improved air quality means fewer colds, coughs and sick days. Broadleaf plants—like wild geranium or ivy— can help regulate humidity as well. That creates a more comfortable environment and can reduce dry skin.
Plants reduce stress—and make people happier.
Psychologically, employees feel good knowing they’re in a workspace that is healthy and free of airborne toxins. They worry less about getting sick and missing work as a result.
The simple act of touching the soil and smelling a plant can be a mood booster. In a study by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, researchers asked participants to do one of two tasks. The first group transplanted a plant from one pot to another. The second group worked on a computer. The plant group felt “comfortable, soothed, and natural.” The computer group felt “uncomfortable, awakened, and artificial.”
Finally, some scientists believe that humans have biophilia, or an instinctual desire to connect with nature. The mere act of sitting among plants can quell that urge and lead to a feeling of calmness.
Are you ready to add plants to your workplace? The following are office-friendly options.
Here are 5 plants that can improve air quality and reduce employee stress.
A good rule of thumb when choosing an office plant is to select one that thrives in low-light or filtered light and needs small amounts of water. Here are five office plants that meet those requirements:
1. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is a succulent known for its medicinal properties in soothing sunburns. It’s also excellent for improving air quality. It’s even known as nature’s air purifier. Aloe vera plants thrive in offices as they require very little water and care.
2. English ivy
If your office is in a musty building and mold is a concern, an English ivy plant is an excellent choice. This perennial vine can reduce airborne mold, and it can be placed in a hanging basket or in a pot with a stake for climbing. Please note that it can be harmful if eaten or touched. Be sure to post warning signs—and don’t use it in workspaces where dogs or children are present.
3. Snake plant
NASA put a snake plant in a chamber and filled it with toxic gases. After 24 hours, tests showed that Benzene levels were reduced by 53 percent. This hardy plant has shiny leaves and makes for healthier air. It’s easy to maintain, but, you might have to dust it on occasion.
This low-maintenance plant likes “dappled” light—similar to the sun peeking through the canopy of trees in its native rainforest environment. This pretty plant adds ambiance and cleans the air to keep employees feeling great.
5. Peace lily
Able to survive in low-light areas, the peace lily is a low-maintenance plant that features beautiful white flowers. It can rid indoor air of toxins that are common in the workplace, from formaldehyde and benzene to acetone and mold spores.
How to involve your team members
Plants can be somewhat of a commitment, especially in an office setting when everyone is moving at a million miles per hour. A great way to make sure your new plants are getting the love they need (without burdening any one person) is to make a plant schedule. Everyone takes care of the plant for one week at a time.
You can also partner with human resources to tout the benefits of plants in reducing organizational stress. They might even buy an easy-to-care-for air plant or a pretty flowering plant for each employee’s desk as a goodwill gesture.
If your workplace isn’t suitable for plants, try an alternate solution. While nature photographs and natural lighting won’t improve air quality, they can have similar effects on mood. It’s the placebo effect. Hang a few nature pictures or encourage your employees to decorate their workspaces with artificial plants. Either can make a surprising difference in the quality of life in the office.