According to a new paper published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied—“The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space”—the long standing lean philosophy of less is more isn’t as true as once thought.
Authored by leading academics from the Universities of Exeter (UK), Cardiff (UK), Queensland (Australia), and Gronigen (Netherlands), the study—which looks at both short- and long-term effects of interior landscaping in office spaces—shows that plant life is an important driver of wellbeing, productivity, and concentration.
“This is a ground-breaking, real-world study which clearly demonstrates how plants in offices can increase employee productivity,” said Craig Knight of the University of Exeter. “It is entirely consistent with over a decade of laboratory and workplace research. Creating a long-term study within a working environment has provided us with evidence to scientifically demonstrate the toxicity of the ‘lean’ office as used by many businesses.”
A series of three experiments undertaken as part of the study demonstrate that plants in office spaces increase employee productivity by as much as 15 percent and improve workplace satisfaction by up to 40 percent.
"We know from previous studies that plants can lower physiological stress, increase attention span, and improve wellbeing," said Kenneth Freeman, head of innovation at Ambius. "But this is the first long-term experiment carried out in a real-life situation which shows that bringing plants into offices can improve wellbeing and make people feel happier at work."
Each experiment was slightly different, with:
- Experiment No. 1 using an open plan office design and examining the short-term benefits of a green office on perceived air quality, concentration, workplace satisfaction, and various measures of productivity.
- Experiment No. 2 focusing on the long-term effects of the same variables.
- Experiment No. 3 taking place at a global consultancy firm in London, where the effects of office design on levels of productivity were examined.
Previous studies have found that outside the workplace, exposure to plants and natural settings can improve moods. Furthermore, increases in wellbeing have shown to coincide with less mental distress among people living in urban areas interspersed with green spaces.