A growing body of research supports the idea that plants aid creative thinking, as well as performance at work. The correlation between plants and productivity has a strong evidence base, but are we any closer to finding out why it exists?
It's thought that plants’ potential to boost output is connected to their ability to reduce stress, increase happiness levels, and our innate affinity with nature. Research also suggests that environmental changes effected by plants make for a conducive work-space and can enhance our cognition. We explain these theories in more detail below.
The term 'biophilia' describes humans' attraction to the colours, shapes and sounds of organic life. Humans are hardwired to respond positively to signifiers of nature, and relax in its presence.
Evolutionary psychologists pose that an abundance of plant life triggers positive feelings because it indicates a healthy ecosystem with sufficient resources (meaning our ancestors would not have to worry where their next meal was coming from).
Increased productivity and creativity perhaps stem from this: we become better workers when our stress levels our reduced, our happiness is increased and we feel more in touch with ourselves.
Office buildings in urban settings, or those with predominantly sealed air, can contain high levels of pollutants such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and chemicals from detergents. Indoor plants help to reduce levels of toxicity in the air and recirculate gasses that are better for us.
Cleaner air undeniably supports respiratory health, and an experiment from Harvard suggests it also aids cognition. Researchers assessed multiple factors affecting indoor work places, modifying qualities such as the chemical components of the airspace and levels of ventilation. Tellingly, the environment most closely resembling an office with plant-life increased cognitive function by a significant degree. Participants in the green environment showed a greater capacity for strategic thinking, information storage and usage, and responded to tasks more readily.
Participants in a ‘green environment’ were 26% percent more productive than control groups, and those with purer air showed a greater capacity for strategic thinking, retention, and responded to tasks more readily.
Feelings of Mastery
Being responsible for a plant’s flourishing; monitoring its moisture levels; feeding it with fertiliser and the right amount of light can make use feel in control of our own lives.
This process may be conscious or unconscious, but it promises to increase our confidence and induce a feeling of calm in our working lives; which ultimately benefits our work.
So next time you feel blocked or out of your depth, get away from the screen and into the soil!
If you want to reap the benefits of having a green office, check out our desk-plant series. A curated collection of little green friends that should help make those light bulb moments more frequent.