Improving your office environment could be as simple as adding some well placed plants!

26th June, 2008

I am sure that most of you know the benefits that plants have on our health and as part of the Nexus expansion we are in the process of revamping our offices.

We decided to add plants to our office environment partly because they look pretty and I knew that they were a good thing in terms of the health benefits, but did you know that....

  • The indoor environment may be 5 to 7 times more polluted than the exterior (1994 CSIRO review)
  • There is a wealth of scientific study into the beneficial effects of plants in the interior environment including a large NASA programme.
  • Indoor plants, apart from looking good, have been proven to have significant health and wellbeing benefits both physical and psychological.

Stress busting Plants
Extensive research already shows that houseplants alleviate stress, help us relax, and increase our general wellbeing.

Research by Dr Tove Fjeld of University of Agriculture, Norway, (1994-1996) for the Flower Council of Holland aimed to discover how far houseplants could benefit our physical and psychological health.

Office staff, working in offices 10msq, were questioned on their health, (particularly symptoms related to spending a lot of time indoors and being under stress). After two months without plants, a range of houseplants were placed in half the offices. After a year, the plants were swapped to those offices with no plants in. After another year all staff were questioned on what effect the plants had had on their health and well being.

Professional contractors looked after the plants, so any benefits to the office staff were from looking at the plants and the plants' effect on the atmosphere and air quality, rather than from nurturing them.

The results show when staff had plants in their offices, there was a significant drop of around 25% in tiredness, coughing, sore throats and cold related illnesses. Eight out of ten stated that "I feel good when there are plants in the office". Eight out of ten said "I would like to have more plants in my office in the future"

Reducing Illness
In further research, Dr Tove Fjeld and her team conducted a series of studies to ascertain whether the presence of living indoor plants could improve office workers' health and reduce incidents of minor illnesses and ailments.

The participants were employees at a hospital radiology department. Each placed commonly-used foliage plants into containers onto a window bench and in the back corner of their office for a period of approximately three months.

All worked in single office rooms which were identical with a floor area of 10msq and a window covering most of the outer wall. The participant was then required to complete a questionnaire across various stages of the research period.

The key findings highlighted that complaints regarding coughs and fatigue were reduced by 37% and 30% respectively, and hoarse throat and dry or itching facial skin each decreased approximately 23%. If the symptoms were clustered, a significant reduction was obtained.

When the participants were grouped according to how much of their daily work took place in their office, a 34% decrease in complaints was found among those who spent most of their day in the room. This compared to 21 and 17% respectively, among those working approximately 50% or less in the room.

Recent research has proved that plants can dramatically improve the recovery rates of hospital patients as well as making the buildings less stressful for staff and visitors.

Hospital architects in the USA are at the forefront this field, although designers in other countries are beginning to understand the benefits of plants in hospitals. (For more information on the benefits of plants in healthcare establishments go to

The major health and wellbeing benefits of indoor plants include:

  • Absorption of harmful substances
  • Filtration of dust and dirt from the environment Dampening of sound levels
  • Reduction of stress levels
  • Increased humidity levels
  • Cooling effect
  • Lifting of the general mood
  • Emission of oxygen refreshing the air

These benefits are important in achieving a good and healthy indoor climate in the artificial environment of the workplace as well as the home. These effects may be particularly helpful for respiratory and allergic conditions.

You can have floor-standing or desk-standing plants and some plants can be enticed to grow into "living screens" which makes them very versatile.

Many places will plan your office plants for you, but I found a particularly good and informative florist's site at a company based in Lewes, East Sussex (I havent tried them, but their site is very well laid out and gives lots of plant advice).

So cheer up your office and staff with plants.... you know it makes sense!!!

If you are interested in more detail refer to (run by NIGZ, the Netherlands Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention) for a comprehensive bibliography and further links.

Claudine Young

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