By Mary Mazzoni on Mar 18, 2013

5 Reasons to Have a Plant at Your Desk


We all know that adding a few well-positioned plants brings a welcoming feel to your work space. But aesthetics aren’t the only reason to incorporate a touch of green into your office setup. From improving indoor air quality to increasing productivity, here are five reasons to have a plant at your desk.

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1. Improve indoor air quality

In addition to bringing a friendly touch to your work space, growing live plants in the office can help clean the air and even improve your health, according to a NASA study.

In 1973, NASA scientists identified 107 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air inside the Skylab space station. Occupants often suffered from burning eyes and respiratory difficulties, later learned to be two of the most common symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome.

Meanwhile, B.C. “Bill” Wolverton, an environmental scientist working with the U.S. military, discovered that swamp plants actually eliminated Agent Orange from water samples. Expanding on this idea, Wolverton tested out the use of houseplants as a means of improving indoor air quality and discovered growing plants indoors helps eliminate VOCs from the air.

Research also suggests that plants play a psychological role in welfare, and that people actually recover from illness faster in the presence of plants, the study said. Check out these 15 houseplants that improve indoor air quality from Clean Air Gardening, and boost workplace wellness the eco way.

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2. Reduce stress

In her dissertation at Surrey University in the U.K., master’s environmental psychology student Helen Russell set out to find scientific proof for notions already widely perceived – namely that plants in the office can reduce stress.

In the study, Russell asked participants to take a difficult test in a room filled with plants, and compared their skin conductivity, heart rate and blood pressure with people who completed the same test without plants.

Of the three types of measurements made, skin conductivity showed the greatest difference between the group exposed to office plants and those who took the test plant-free. Overall, Russell’s findings showed that plants eased stress for participants by at least this metric, and that participants recovered from stress more quickly in a plant-heavy environment.

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3. Increase productivity

Tending for that potted plant not only helps you chill out during a hectic work day, but can also increase focus and productivity – allowing you to accomplish more with less stress.

In a study published in the “Journal of Environmental Horticulture,” researchers from Washington State University reported that live interior plants helped workers complete tasks with more focus and efficiency.

The study asked workers to complete a simple task on a computer in a room with plants and compared their performance with workers who completed the same task in the same room without plants.

Findings showed that productivity increased by 12 percent in the presence of plants. Additionally, people tested in the room with plants reported feeling about 10 percent more attentive after the task than those tested without plants.

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4. Make rooms more comfortable

The recommended humidity range for human health and comfort is between 30 and 60 percent, but many offices fall short of these figures, especially in the summer and winter months. Low interior humidity can lead to increased fatigue, respiratory discomfort and an overall drop in workplace well-being, but the same Washington State University study that touted the benefits of plants for productivity suggests a touch of green can help fix this problem as well.

Findings show that when plants were added to a room, the relative humidity rose significantly, but not excessively. In one case, relative humidity without plants averaged 25 percent, and with plants it averaged 30 percent – bringing the room into the ideal comfort range.

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5. Keep the environment on your mind

Keeping a plant at your desk has loads of health and wellness benefits. But don’t forget about the intangible ways a workplace plant can boost your green lifestyle.

In addition to improving your office environment, tending a house plant every day at work reminds you of how important it is to care for the Earth and why eco-friendly living means so much to you.

Each time you water your plant, let your mind wander to what you love about the environment, and channel these warm-fuzzy feelings to add a few eco-conscious habits to your workplace routine, such as reaching for reusable products over disposables, reducing paper use and conserving energy.

Want More Tips?: 50+ Ways to Green Your Workday


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