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New Study Points to Major Health Benefits of Indoor Plants and Outdoor Green Spaces for Employees

Interior plants in a modern office environmentHortTechnology, a journal published by the American Society of Horticultural Science, recently released a fascinating study about the benefits of office plants and giving employees access to natural/green space. The study, The Relationship between the Use of Green Spaces and Public Gardens in the Work Place on Mental Well-being, Quality of Life, and Job Satisfaction for Employees and Volunteers, evaluated data from more than 100 detailed surveys. The surveys produced well-supported conclusions about the healing power of plants, and show a strong correlation between time spent with plants and employee/volunteer health.

A little green goes a long way.

One of the most interesting findings of the study was just how big of an impact one or two indoor plants—or just a few minutes spent outside in nature—can have on an employee’s sense of well-being. It found overall employee happiness, health, and job satisfaction is tied directly to the amount of time spent outside during the workday, and that simply being near a window while working has significant benefits.

But the study took things one step further, asking participants if the view from their window included plants and trees, then asking about their overall quality of life. Those respondents who gave a high rating for quality of life were most likely to have office windows with a good view of nature. Similar results were observed when asking employees if they had any living interior plants at their office. These findings were not only applicable to paid employees, but also to volunteers.

There was, however, one area where results deviated between employees and volunteers: job satisfaction. While being near living plants and windows with views of nature had a strong correlation with job satisfaction among paid workers, this wasn’t the case with volunteers. Since the nature of volunteer work tends to align more closely with a person’s belief system or sense of obligation to the community, this was not a surprising result.

Lunch break? Take it outside.

A notable conclusion of the study was that eating lunch outdoors is a great stress reducer at work. It points out the double benefit of an outdoor lunch, because not only do plants provide a sense of wellbeing, but “People who have time to eat outdoors are likely to be less stressed through their workday as indicated by the degree of autonomy exhibited in their choice to eat outdoors.” So it’s not only plants that help lower stress—giving employees a choice about where they want to eat also plays an important role. Conversely, the study found employees who spent lunch indoors, running errands, or working exhibited higher stress levels.

Creating a healthier, happier work environment.

So how can business owners use these findings to boost the morale, health, and productivity of their employees? One of the best tips is to encourage employees to take regular 10- to 15-minute breaks, and to take them outside. Walking during these breaks can also help lower stress. Also, give your employees the chance to go out outside whenever possible, and position workspaces near windows with views of nature. If windows don’t have good views, consider adding community gardens or trees to your office landscape. You might be surprised how many of your employees are willing to help create and maintain an office garden—and how many different ways there are to create more outdoor functional space.

Another thing you can do is make sure your office is full of healthy plants. But choosing plants that provide maximum health benefits—and that are relatively easy to manage—is important, so it’s a good idea to consult with a professional. Some companies are even going so far as to build indoor atriums full of plant life to help employees feel healthier and happier at work. Whatever your strategy, there are plenty of ways to use the findings of this study to improve the lives of your employees.

Do you need help choosing and arranging indoor plants for your office? Or help adding more beautiful, functional space to your office landscape? Our expert team at Engledow can help. We’ve been working with some of Central Indiana’s biggest companies for decades, and we’d love to put our passion for plants to work for you. Contact us today to learn more.