Nieuwenhuis and his team have confirmed the value of adding plants to workplace environments.
This research is timely because, as the researchers describe, “Principles of lean office management increasingly call for space to be stripped of extraneous decorations so that it can flexibly accommodate changing numbers of people and different office functions within the same area.”
In a series of experiments, most involving actual workplaces and workers and with data collected over long periods of time, the investigators found that “enriching a previously lean office with plants served to significantly increase workplace satisfaction, self-reported levels of concentration, and perceived air quality. . . . enriching space also improved perceived productivity. . . and actual productivity. . . . simply enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15%. . . . a green office leads to more work engagement among employees. . . . the results unambiguously indicated that participants who worked in green office space were more productive than their counterparts who worked in a lean office space. Tasks were completed faster and— importantly—without any accompanying rise in errors.”
Plants used by the researchers were green, leafy (as opposed to cactuses), and had an average height of 90 centimeters (about a yard). In “green” test conditions, subjects could see at least one, and generally between one and three of these plants while working. No plants were visible to participants working in lean spaces.
For additional information on the benefits of designing in plants, read this article.
Marlon Nieuwenhuis, Craig Knight, Tom Postmes, and S. Haslam. “The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, in press.