Posted on June 25, 2013

Green office with plants

Ever wondered why the office feels so stuffy after someone’s been churning out reams on the photocopier all day or why more people take sick leave during winter? It’s because the pollutants from office equipment produce the kind of low humidity levels usually only found in winter.

Now, you could get together and insist your boss spend a fortune on humidity creating equipment. Problem is—these new-fangled machines harbour bacteria and can be noisy.

No, you’d be much better off petitioning your boss to introduce a few plants. If he refuses, try pointing out that improving office air quality is proven to reduce sick leave and the introduction of plants has the added benefit of increasing productivity.

Indeed, more plants means improved concentration levels and an altogether happier work force, but your employer should be aware that going overboard could have negative effects. Don’t be surprised if you walk into the office one day and find Nutty Norma chatting to Simple Simon about Graham the plant pixie. Crowding your desk with greenery is likely to increase your perceived stress levels – put them in view but not too close.

So the solution is to have a designated plant area with enough plants to purify the entire building. Right? Wrong. Filling the office with too many plants produces too much humidity, which is just as harmful as too little. Get the balance wrong and you might even see a drop in productivity.

Place the plant at least a meter away, but make sure you can see it; putting it behind you will do little to promote productivity and might even increase your sick-leave tally. And if you want to earn a few extra brownie points, use your own plant. Not only will this save your boss some money, but it could enhance your well-being and productivity further still.

Putting a plant within view will have a small but significant effect on productivity over a long period of time, but plants are at their stress-reducing best if you can only see them during breaks. Become too familiar and you will gradually acclimatise. They have also been proven to reduce stress most when your mind is resting.

Getting your boss to liven up the office with plants is definitely a good idea, but it requires a lot of thought to achieve the maximum benefits. Bring in too many and they’re a humid distraction; put them too close and they’re a health hazard, but positioned correctly they can reduce sick leave to a minimum or maximise productivity levels.
If sick leave is a problem—scatter them around the office; if it’s productivity—put them in the room used for taking a break, but wherever you put them, make sure people can see them.

It’s also important to select the right sort of plant for your office. If, like me, you’re no expert on all things green, why not use Amibus’ office plant selection tool to find the right plant for your office? Just click on the leaf labelled with your office size to find the best plants. Or, if you have something to say about the benefits of plants in the office, why not add a message to the comments?

Author: Terry Martin is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist.  He has had first-hand experience of hot offices during his days as a computer programmer.