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3 benefits of plants in the office

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Americans work nearly 1,800 hours each year. Americans spend more time in the office than most other industrialized countries.

Natural décor gives us comfort.
Photo by Thomas Lohnes

A well-designed office environment can go a long way towards boosting morale, improving productivity, and humanizing the office. In particular, plants can make indoor settings feel green and environmentally friendly.

Here are three benefits of having shrubbery in your cubicle, conference room, receptionist area, and other work areas.

Boost Productivity

A leafy environment lets workers feel more comfortable at work, which can lead to better business results. A 2013 study by scientists at the University of Exeter concluded that plants aid concentration, increase productivity and improve employees' wellbeing by 47 percent.

The researchers compared output in different industries. They found that plants inside the office help improve business performance. Better concentration is a significant advantage in the marketplace because the office is full of distractions that divert workers from doing their jobs -- such as the Webs surfing, chatting, and social media.

Improve Morale

Having plants in your office increases psychological comfort, improves morale, and reduces stress. It's no accident that most executives prefer the corner office with a window view of trees and outdoor landscape.

Ruth K. Raanaas of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences collaborated on a 2013 study that found office plants to be a cost-effective way of keeping workers satisfied and focused. "Most people spend a large proportion of their life at work," Raanaas tells Fast Company. "So even small effects may have great practical significance when aggregated over employees and time of employment."

Indoor trees don't have to represent a fire hazard at the office. For instance, these artificial palm trees can be coated with fire-resistant materials to comply with local building codes.

Plants can also serve as natural coolers in a building environment, and can lower heating and cooling bills by up to 20 percent.

Dr. Virginia Lohr of Washington State University conducted a study where participants were 12 percent more productive and less stressed than those who worked in an environment with no plants.

Natural décor gives us comfort.

Better Air Quality

Finally, plants improve air quality and humidity in indoor settings. Large buildings are often too reliant on central A/C and heater systems that have dirty filters and pathways. Poor air quality results in sickness and lack of comfort.

"Sick Building Syndrome" refers to high amounts of toxins inside sealed buildings that can threaten the health of occupants. Offices that have minimal intake of fresh outdoor air can lead to sickness.

"Plants cool by the process of 'transpiration', releasing moisture into the air," according to Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont. "A USDA estimate is that proper use of plants could decrease air temperature in an office by as much as ten degrees. Plus, the moisture released by these plants helps maintain indoor humidity in the human comfort zone of 30 to 60 percent, and helps prevent materials such as wood from cracking when dried out."

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