It’s well known that having plants in a room can make it more highly oxygenated and more pleasant to work in. But research teams from Norway and America believe that plants are even more beneficial than that. Two separate studies found that plants in the workplace provide not only aesthetic and visual benefits, but they also improve worker concentration and productivity.
A Norwegian team, over the course of two recent studies, tested the effect of desk plants on worker productivity. Each participant was issued an attention task that required them to read several sentences on a computer screen and remember the final word in each.
The first study, undertaken in 2011, saw the participants perform the reading task whilst sat at a basic wooden desk with nothing around it. The others did the same task at a desk surrounded by office flowers and foliage. The results were overwhelming – those surrounded by plants did much better than those who were not.
The second study, conducted this summer, confirmed the first study’s findings albeit in different circumstances. This time, participants who were sat at a desk with flowers and plants showed more improvement on the attention task than those sitting at an empty desk.
Speaking to Co Design, Ruth K. Raanaas of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, a collaborator on both studies, said that office plants could provide a simple, cost-effective way to keep workers satisfied and focused.
“Most people spend a large proportion of their life at work, so even small effects may have great practical significance when aggregated over employees and time of employment.”
These tests underline the theory of “attention restoration,” which states that mental fatigue can be restored when we give our direct attention a break. Sleep can do the job, but when we’re awake, we can also refresh direct attention by shifting our minds to an indirect, or effortless form of engagement – such as nature.
Rachel Kaplan added that the “micro-restorative” impact of desk plants should make them as necessary in the workplace as stationary.
“I do think the concept of micro-restoration is very useful in the office context,” Kaplan says. “So if you have little moments of looking up and seeing something that brings that resource back a little bit, some of those should make a huge difference.”
Via Co Design
Images shawncampbell and PinkMoose