The impact of flowers and plants on people in the workplace

Elizabeth Marsh By Elizabeth Marsh
Uploaded 14 January 2014

"Plants in offices can improve the sense of wellbeing and health. Health problems affected by the indoor atmosphere occur less frequently, and the employees feel the plants to be a positive element. It is consequently obvious to assume that plants can help reduce the costs resulting from short-term absence due to illness. Effectiveness at work can be improved both through the reduction in health problems and an increased sense of well-being. This is interesting from an economic perspective, not least because the individual planting can easily be adapted to the workplace in question. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the individual employee's sense of wellbeing is clearly promoted, and that plants in the workplace can therefore also help improve quality of life overall."

This quote from Dr Tove Fjeld (Do plants in offices have a positive effect on health? - Lecture notes from the catalogue of the Symposium 'plants for people' in Nov 1996, Dresden), demonstrates clearly that astute businesses will protect their biggest asset - their team - by providing an environment that will boost productivity, increase wellbeing and reduce absenteeism due to stress-related illness. Indeed, according to a new study by Indoor Garden Design and the University of Exeter, houseplants in the office increase productivity by 38 per cent and wellbeing by a staggering 47 per cent.

In addition Dr Fjeld showed that indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 per cent.

To those who still remain unconvinced, I challenge you to place a vase of cut flowers that you like in a room that you spend time in on a daily basis for one week. Add water to the vase so the flowers remain fresh. The following week replace the flowers. The week after that, do not replace the flowers and make a note of how you feel about the space when you enter. I can guarantee the room will not feel the same without the flowers. A room that once felt absolutely fine will appear bleak once flowers have been present in the space.  However, I emphasise that they need to be flowers that you like.

Of course, a key element in times of recession is the ability to attract and retain the best staff, to build a winning team and create an environment in which each individual makes their contribution to a sum total that is greater than any one individual part.

It has long since been proven that money on its own is not a decisive factor in a person's decision to work with a company, and feeling they are an important member of the team weighs more heavily in this sense than financial reward alone. Increasingly therefore, companies are looking to add the little details that count so heavily in the minds of the people with whom they work.

Those of us who have children will appreciate that it is the little details that can have the greatest impact on how we feel. The splodges painstakingly painted by a toddler before being lovingly carried home to present to us can reduce us to tears, as can the single bloom given as a token of love by the penniless student. These are the things that make us feel significant and motivate us to give of ourselves. So a vase of flowers whose sole purpose is the wellbeing of the workforce can work miracles on the mindset of the people who are responsible for making the business successful.

Finally, plants and flowers can have a positive impact on the ability of a person to heal when in hospital. Studies have demonstrated that the soothing impact of either plants in the space or a view of a natural environment aids the healing process. Significantly in the current working world where stress is almost inevitable with the challenges we all face, the soothing impact of flowers and plants might well contribute to our ability to keep performing, whether we are a stressed office worker, hotel housekeeper or jet-lagged hotel guest.

Elizabeth Marsh's book, Petal Performance: the Art and Economics of Floral Design, published by Callisto Green, is available on Amazon.

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