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September 2018

Why we celebrate Arbor month - part 2: the physical and psychological benefits of interior plants

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Environment and Green Hygiene

In part 1 of our Arbor month blog post we took a look at why we celebrate Arbor month and the environmental benefits that indoor plants provide, specifically with regard to improved air quality. Like good office hygiene practices, improving office air quality can significantly reduce the risk of both chronic and acute illness, resulting in a healthier workforce. Healthier colleagues mean less absenteeism, which can only be good for the bottom line.

But the addition of interior plants to your workplace can provide more benefits than just improved indoor air quality. There are many additional physical and psychological benefits associated with having indoor plants, and a number of studies which support the correlation between indoor plants, air quality, a healthy environment and improved employee wellbeing (both physical and mental).

Employee wellbeing and health

A study undertaken by Prof.Dr Tøve Fjeld from the University of Norway, determined that plants in offices can improve employees sense of well-being and health.  Professor Tøve undertook two case studies, one at the Winterswijk Tax office in the Netherlands and one at the Norwegian State Oil Company. The most significant findings showed that the air quality where plants were present was of a higher quality and that productivity improved. This was particularly evident in the improved concentration and efficiency levels of those participants working on computers.

Her studies showed that health problems, affected by an improved indoor atmosphere, occurred less frequently and the participants felt that the plants were a positive element. In her conclusion of the detailed study, Professor Fjeld stated that it was “consequently obvious to assume that the plants can help reduce the costs resulting from short term absence due to illness.”

Another Norwegian study, undertaken at the Statoil offices in Oslo, confirmed that the presence of indoor plants in an office environment reduced symptoms directly associated with concentrated levels of VOC’s (such as fatigue, headaches and dry skin and eyes) by the following amounts:

  •         32% reduction in fatigue
  •         45% reduction in headaches
  •         22% reduction in dry or sore throats
  •         38% reduction in coughs
  •         11% reduction in dry facial skin

Employee productivity and performance

A study entitled “The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Office Space” found that workers in green offices (those decorated with plants) were 15% more productive than those in lean offices (those with no plants). Improved air quality, better concentration and increased workplace satisfaction were also added benefits.

Helen Russel, an MSc graduate at Surrey University (UK) measured the skin conductivity, heart rate and blood pressure of subjects who were subjected to mental arithmetic tasks while being intentionally distracted. The tests showed that the stress levels for those subjects  in rooms where plants were present were lower and that the recovery rate during the post test period was quicker than those subjects who were in an empty environment.

As discussed in our previous post, plants have been shown to absorb and break down urban air pollutants, but they also replenish the levels of oxygen (O2) in the air through photosynthesis. Research conducted in Sydney by Margaret Burchett  shows that in offices with plants, CO2 levels were reduced by 10% in air conditioned buildings and by 25% in non-air conditioned ones, compared to the equivalent offices without plants.

By reducing CO2 levels in the building, especially in the afternoon when they are known to have naturally risen, concentration, creativity and performance levels are more likely to increase in workers, allowing them to be more productive in the office for longer periods of the day.

And finally, there is the colour therapy school of thought which maintains that the energy relating to each of the seven spectrum colours of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet, resonates with the energy of each of the seven main chakras/energy centres of the body.  Colour is absorbed by the eyes, skin and skull, and the energy of colour affects us on all levels: physical, spiritual and emotional. Colour therapists believe that every cell in the body needs light energy, thus colour energy has a widespread effect on the whole body.  

This school of thought maintains that along with blue, green is the best colour for creating a calm atmosphere. The green colour of indoor plants is believed to stimulate both the brain and the digestive system, and even reduce stress factors that lead to shaking, tremors and twitching.

In today’s tough economy businesses are constantly under pressure to deliver better results. Initial knows how much absenteeism can impact your bottom line, and provides hygiene solutions to help minimise absenteeism and increase productivity.  Why not support these efforts with the simple addition of greenery and vegetation into your workplace?. At Ambius we believe that creating a healthy and green environment in offices can pay huge dividends in terms of wellbeing, productivity and attention span; delivering a real return on a relatively small investment for the business.

For more information on interior plants for your office, visit our website www.ambius.co.za or call us on 0800 77 77 88.

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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie is the Category Manager at Rentokil Initial, and has worked in the hygiene and pest control industry for 12 years. Although after 12 years cockroaches still have the power to terrify her, she has learnt countless ways to defeat germs both in the workplace and at home. She is a passionate advocate for Global Handwash Day and the health benefits that can be derived from regular handwashing and hygiene practices. When not contributing to the Initial blog, Nathalie is writing press releases for sister businesses, Rentokil and Ambius. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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