Greening Up an Office Space
Is your office space needing a little livening up? One of the most common descriptors people use for industrial or institutional spaces is “dead”. To increase the level of happiness in a workspace, it’s necessary to bring it to life. One of the best, easiest, and most cost-effective ways to do this is to add some actual life, in the form of plants.
Being near other living things seems to be good for humans. Our relationship with plants is extremely symbiotic – they complement our respiration. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide, which is a waste product for the human body, and convert it to oxygen, which is essential to our very survival. Putting plants into an office space will oxygenate the environment. Studies have shown that common plants can even absorb and neutralize synthetic organic chemicals that are otherwise harmful to humans.
For a number of reasons, plants have been shown to be beneficial to worker performance. This is partially a product of the improved air quality in the form of a higher percentage of oxygen, and partly one of aesthetics. Plants just look nice – for reasons that we can’t always explain. Offices tend to be harsh environments – angular furniture, utilitarian lighting, floor coverings designed for durability, not style. Adding a few plants to your office will make the space feel more organic and alive, because plants are, after all, organic and alive.
Productivity and Plants
Studies have been conducted to determine the effect of plants on worker productivity. While situations vary, the results show that simply adding plants to your workspace can result in a boost of up to 15%. That’s like every worker coming in on Saturday morning!
Many studies correlate exposure to greenery with improved mood, increased self-esteem, and decreased anxiety. The reasons for this are many, from the purely psychological, the physical, and for some, the spiritual.
Plants and people have a relationship that dates back to the earth’s first human inhabitants. Not only do plants produce our oxygen, but they nourish us, provide materials that we can use to build shelters or burn for warmth. Modern offices, especially those that subscribe to the open (cubicle) plan, are pretty harsh places. Plants, with their natural, organic shapes and colors soften the edges of these places.
Every space can benefit from the addition of living plants – individual offices and workspaces, of course, will reap productivity benefits. Common areas, like lobbies, waiting rooms, and meeting spaces will become more welcoming and healthy environments when you add living plants to them. Some plants can even live in windowless commercial bathrooms, which aren’t exactly known for inspiring an inviting atmosphere with their fluorescent lighting and scintillating varieties of urinal screens. It’s easy to see that your washroom will benefit from the addition of some greenery.
What Kind of Plants?
There are many varieties of plants suitable for indoor growing – office environments, however, present some particular challenges. Humidity levels are low, and temperature fluctuations are the norm, as the climate control systems will be scheduled to do less heating or cooling while the office is empty. The plants you choose will need to be resistant to this, and they’ll necessitate lighting sufficient to keep them alive, which varies across species. Plants commonly found in offices include:
African Violets – small enough for desktops, and easy to care for, these plants can reward you with beautiful flowers. Even if they don’t bloom, they are an attractive plant that stays a manageable size.
Jade Plants – Ideal for office environments, succulents like the common Jade plant are resistant to temperature swings and require very little care. Occasional water and dusting of the leaves will suffice. Jade Plants, however, require access to a lot of light and will do best in a windowsill. Over the years, a Jade plant can get quite large. You can, however, make it smaller by cutting it. The cuttings will root in a pot of soil, perpetuating your plant. When your Jade grows too big to live indoors, it makes a great addition for your outdoor garden.
Aloe Vera – A succulent like the Jade, the Aloe plant will require bright light, and little else. It needs water only occasionally and will grow happily on any windowsill. It’s attractive, and its soothing sap is often used as a salve for burns and minor irritations.
Spider Plants – Spider Plants are very common in office spaces because they’re attractive (they tend to spill out of pots, so look very nice on shelves or the tops of divider panels) and are easy to care for. They’re not too picky about the amount of light they get, but require more regular watering than other plants.
Cacti – the king of low maintenance plants, a Cactus requires very little water and is extremely resistant to temperature extremes. Suited to desert environments, most types of Cactus can take all the heat or cold your buildings climate control can throw at it.
Adjusting your Environment
While the benefits of adding plants to your office space are many, with the benefits come some additional considerations. First and foremost, plants require light to stay alive. It fuels the process of photosynthesis, which is essential for all plant life. Many plants thrive in bright sunlight, while others need diffuse light. Some will grow under artificial light, while others will only accept the spectrum of light provided by the sun. Luckily, there are countless solutions available now. You can purchase fluorescent or LED source bulbs that you can put into your existing fixtures so that plants can grow, even in rooms with no natural light source.
Trial and Error
All plants are different, as are all office environments. Unfortunately, there are likely to be some failures along the way. Plants placed too close to the building’s HVAC system won’t do well, and inevitably, human errors will occur, and plants will languish for months without water, withering and drying out. Some plants will get too much light, and some will receive too little. Some will simply not be suited to the rigors of your particular space and will die for no apparent reason.
A Team Effort
Some of your employees will embrace the introduction of more life to their space, and some will be ambivalent. The best way to ensure that as many people as possible are on board is to include them in the decision-making processes (let them choose the plants that are going to be in their workspace!) and give them responsibilities for the care of their green companions. Identify those workers who are more invested in the introduction of plants to the office, and enlist their help in devising a watering schedule for plants in common areas.
Get all the supplies needed for plant care, like a watering can, fertilizer (if required) and transplanting equipment, and allow them time to do maintenance. The benefits your organization should experience in terms of increased job satisfaction and productivity should vastly outweigh the small outlay of time required to care for the office’s new inhabitants.
When all is said and done, you’ll find the addition of plants to your indoor environment to be positive. Your organization should reap the benefits of improved morale and productivity, as your employees get the benefit of better air quality and a more natural environment in their workspaces.