Plants in the workplace offer more than just aesthetic value. Studies have shown that they help reduce stress, enhance employee attitudes, increase productivity, and improve air quality.
Research done by Dr. Roger S. Ulrich of Texas A&M University, Helen Russell of Surry University, England as well as recent studies conducted by Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University have shown that plants significantly lower workplace stress and enhance productivity. In Dr. Lohr’s study, participants were 12% more productive and less stressed than those who worked in an environment with no plants.
Interior plants can lower operations and maintenance costs while contributing to a “Green Building” design. Plants cool by a process called transpiration, which, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, decreases air temperature in offices by ten degrees. A recent study out of Washington State University demonstrates that plant transpiration in an office environment releases moisture, creating a humidity level exactly matching the recommended human comfort range of 30-60%. The same study concludes that in an absence of plants, the relative humidity in offices runs below this recommended range. When the relative humidity is too low, costly materials such as wood become damaged and crack. When the relative humidity is too high, the condensation of windows and exterior wall can result in costly structural damage.
According to the International Society of Arboriculture, the net cooling effect of one young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. The Associated Landscape Contractors of America states that the proper selection and placement of plant materials can lower heating and cooling costs by as much as 20%.
Plants in the workplace attract, retain and enhance the attitude of today’s selective employees. Humanizing the workplace with green plants is a highly effective method to promote employee satisfaction. Studies by Dr. Ulrich and Dr. David Uzzell from Oxford University verify the positive effect plants have on employee perception and disposition. Both clients and employees perceive a building with interior planting as more expensive looking, more welcoming and more relaxed.
Plants help with bottom line savings on mounting sick leave expenses in energy efficient buildings. “Sick Building Syndrome” develops into a serious and expensive liability when toxins become concentrated inside sealed office buildings. This is a widespread problem with sealed energy efficient buildings that have less exchange of fresh outdoor air for stale indoor air. Research shows that plant-filled rooms contain 50 – 60% fewer airborne molds and bacteria than rooms without plants. Plants have been found to suck chemicals out of the air, acting as the lungs and kidneys of buildings. It is recommended that in office buildings where sick building syndrome is common, everyone has a plant on his or her desk.
Strategically placed, plants help reduce distractions due do to office noise. A small indoor hedge placed around a workspace or office cubicle will reduce noise by 5 decibels. The positive contribution of interior plants to sound absorption has been well documented in studies by Dr. Helen Russell, Oxford, England and David Uzzell, University of Surrey, England.