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Plants Vs Placebo: Do Plants Increase Productivity in the Workplace?

Do plants in the office matter; can they really affect your employee’s mentality?

Australia’s obsession with indoor plants for the home and working in a green office is stronger than ever. An increasing number of Australians dealing with the new ‘COVID normal’ are creating lush, greenery-filled sanctuaries in their home workspaces. One 2021 report remarked: “the longer we spent indoors, the more we come to value the outdoors.”

While this newfound love for home and office greenery is great, it certainly begs the question: do plants really benefit the workspace? And should you include them in your workspace design?

Put simply – yes! But why are plants so important?

One study, undertaken from 1995-96, provides the best evidence for the question: can plants improve productivity? The Norwegian study observed 60 office workers, half of whom were given a plant during the spring months. The other half worked as normal, but with no plant. The study found that the workers with plants not only had better mental health but also improved physical health. Fatigue coughs and dry skin were just some of the symptoms that improved – by at least 23% each. The research suggests the improvements were likely due to two separate mechanisms: improved air quality, and the psychological affect of existing in a more pleasurable environment.  

Another study investigated how the presence of plants in the workspace may influence creativity. They compared the creative output of 350 people in four different working environments.  The study comprised roughly of 90 experiments! The results are incredible: with plants increasing employees’ creativity by 45%!

All of this sounds great, but the real question is: are plants a mere placebo, or is there a valid scientific reason for the improvement of employees’ mentalities in the presence?

It would be great if the plants were a mere placebo: companies could simply install plastic plants – with the ease and convenience of their care – and reap the same benefits. Unfortunately, real plants trigger actual survival instincts in humans; for this reason, plastic plants simply do not cut it in the workplace. Seeing, smelling and touching real plants elicits a neurochemical response in our brains that delivers measurable positive effects in creativity, productivity, and our overall sense of well-being. From an evolutionary point of view, healthy trees and plants signify abundant food nearby, reducing survival anxiety. This helps release those calm, pleasant feelings that prompt happiness and creativity and reduces stress.

If you’re looking for a simple way to harness these benefits without the constant maintenance of real plants, consider renting plants for your workspace. Also, when acquiring office space, try to find a workspace that overlooks nature. 

At A1 Office we love plants, often creating green office designs with their incredible benefits in mind. If you’re thinking of incorporating plants and greenery into your workspace, we encourage you to contact A1 Office for a consultation.

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