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There is a lot of information about the beneficial effects of indoor plants in workplaces and living areas in general. These green wonders increase productivity, purify the air and even balance your mood.

Indoor plants are about to blow your mind…

As early as the ancient hallways and corridors within the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, plants have been living indoors for the benefit of humankind. In fact, the domestication of plants over 10,000 years ago has influenced the modern society we know today. Why do we feel an urge to bring greenery into our homes and offices?

We had the sudden urge to add some greenery to our office. Naturally, some research ensued and the facts abound! Let’s take a look at some key benefits and maybe you’ll think twice the next time you order a salad.

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They’re natural purifiers.

During photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Humans inhale oxygen and release carbon dioxide. It’s a match made in heaven and only the beginning of their purification benefits. 

Everywhere you look, the air is full of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These compounds include formaldehyde (from vinyl, cigarettes and rugs), benzene and trichloroethylene (from paint, ink and other synthetic compounds). Modern buildings tend to be sealed in order to maintain an air-conditioned homeostasis, which means that these VOCs are building up inside. That’s where our plant friends come in and save the day by removing up to 87% of VOCs in a 24-hour period. Studies by NASA have shown that plants pull these substances into the soil where micro-organisms convert them into plant food. Now, that’s my kind of foodie!

“Based on our results, we can recommend what plants are good for certain types of VOCs and for specific locations. To illustrate, the bromeliad plant was very good at removing six out of eight studied VOCs — it was able to take up more than 80 percent of each of those compounds — over the twelve-hour sampling period. So, it could be a good plant to have sitting around in the household or workplace.” -Vadoud Niri, Ph.D., American Chemical Society.

Improve mood & focus.

From the air we breathe to the thoughts we think; indoor plants play a role. 

We draw a certain degree of positive energy from natural environments. You don’t have to crush and juice them either. Simply having them in the workplace or even at home can improve your mood. Researchers in the United Kingdom studied sets of individuals who lived or worked by natural, green environments and those who didn’t. They found that the groups closer to nature had a happier outlook on life. This correlates with indoor plants, which tap into the same primal emotion. Moreover, a study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Cirencester in England found that students demonstrate 70% greater attentiveness when they’re taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants.

Why is this occurring? It’s believed that there are a variety of variables working in unison. First, we’re subconsciously influenced by memories of nature. Second, the scent could be a trigger as smell is a powerful conjurer of memories. These recollections involving nature are generally positive, such as baseball games or playing hide and seek. Finally, the oxygen released from photosynthesis removes some emotional and physical fatigue. Keep in mind that high levels of oxygen can even cause euphoria. All of these combined create one powerful feeling of blissful focus.

Immune & physical boost.

It’s not all in your head, either! Yes, it is known that mood and thoughts have great power over the body. So, the emotional and psychological benefits do contribute. Lowered stress and increased contentment help with sleep. Consequently, getting a full night’s rest and completing the REM cycle powers up the human immune system. Viruses and bugs are less likely to take hold and cause illness. Studies in Norway have shown that illnesses drop by 60% through the use of plants in your daily life.

Another physical advantage involves humidity. Since plants release almost all the water they take in, they play the part of a humidifier. When the air is dry, lungs can become irritated, skin starts to wrinkle and a general sense of discomfort sets in. 

This leads us to healing, one of our body’s most important functions. Medical researchers at Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden ran an experiment in which they showed white panels, abstract paintings, and landscape photographs to patients in hospital rooms.  Patients looking at the landscape photographs didn’t just have less anxiety — they actually required less pain medication and/or recovery time.

Workplace specific benefits.

We now know about the physical and psychological wonders brought on by incorporating plant life in and around our living areas. Let’s talk about work, specifically. Indoor plants bring specific benefits when it comes to the day to day grind. 

There’s no lack of research on the topic. Foremost, a discovery by the Human Spaces report in 2015 made a splash. The organization studied 7,600 workers spread across 16 countries. It concluded that almost two-thirds (58%) of workers didn’t have living plants nearby. The 42% that did have exposure to nature throughout their work day actually reported a 15% higher well-being score and a 6% increase of productivity. 

A more specific study in Norway aimed at measuring the reduction of psychophysiological stress, task performance, and symptoms of ill health. The 385 workers where observed to show a measurable improvement as well.  The study’s report stated “after controlling for these variables, the number of indoor plants proximal to a worker’s desk had small but statistically reliable associations with sick leave and productivity.”

These are merely two studies. A plethora of experiments have reached similar conclusions. It can be difficult to determine the exact cause, as there are so many variables contributing to the effects. Plants have layers, literally and figuratively. The culmination of all their functions combined may be the reason that we cannot necessarily single out one cause. The small amount of mystery keeps us coming back!

Attractive to job applicants.

Another important role that indoor plants play begins before the work even starts. Think back to any time you have interviewed for a new job. That walk to the boss’s office for the initial interview is also a covert operation with the prospective employee gathering intel to put together an image of what a work day there might feel like. It feels almost superficial to state the obvious. A hint of nature looks and feels better.

“The benefit of design inspired by nature, known as biophilic design, is accumulating evidence at a rapid pace. Looking at a snapshot of global working environments, up to one in five people have no natural elements within their workspace, and alarmingly nearly 50% of workers have no natural light. Yet a third of us say that workplace design would affect our decision to join a company. There’s a big disparity here and one that hints at workplace design only recently rising to prominence as a crucial factor.”  -Organizational psychology professor Sir Cary Cooper.

An employer can utilize a wide array of species. No matter the style, look or feel of an office, there’s a plant that fits right in. Some of the most common plants are Croton, Lemon Lime Dracaena, Moth Orchid, Golden Pothos and Lucky Bamboo. 

In conclusion, we’re getting a plant! It is clear that it’s a worthwhile investment. If you make a similar choice, it’s only a matter of deciding which type. There are species that thrive by windows and others that need full shade. Some might need water on a daily basis, others rarely. Those cacti are pretty darn cute as long as no one falls or leans on one. I think we’ll go for something that twists and turns, not unlike life.

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