Superstitious folk believe leaving a Christmas tree and other festive decorations up beyond the 12th day after Christmas day brings bad luck. But who’s to say you can’t brighten up the office with some greenery throughout the year? Keeping a fir tree next to the photocopier may not be practical, but sprucing up the workplace with greenery doesn’t have to be limited to the festive season. Few would deny the positive effects of a Christmas tree on office morale, so it’s worth considering other ways a touch of nature can be brought into the office to give a boost to employees all year long.
The power of nature
Research from the University of Queensland has found that being connected with nature has benefits for both our physical health and emotional wellbeing – and is linked to reduced stress, lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem and improved mood.
This desire to be engaged with nature is deeply engrained in our evolutionary make-up. The concept that plants and nature have a beneficial influence on humans was first developed by the American biologist, Edward O Wilson, who developed a hypothesis called ‘Biophilia’. He defined Biophilia as “the innate affiliation people seek with other organisms and especially the natural world.”
But how can facilities managers and employers ensure that they are fulfilling employees’ integral desire to be close to nature? Here are some top tips for bolstering worker wellbeing with plants all year round:
- Clever interior landscaping
A recent study showed that 70 per cent of Brits feel they have “lost touch with nature.” Many of us spend a great deal of our time in prescriptive and sterile environments, with little interaction with nature on a day-to-day basis. When Ambius polled office workers last summer, 63 per cent said they could not even see an indoor plant from their work station.
As the Christmas tree is whisked away, it’s worth considering introducing other natural objects and materials into the workplace to reconnect employees with nature. The benefits of incorporating greenery into interior design are evident, with research demonstrating that it not only leads to an increase in workplace productivity but also an enhancement of wellbeing and health.
- Easy care plants
The UK’s working population is busier than ever, which can make something as simple as caring for a plant more difficult. So, what are the best options for the workplace?
New varieties of Aglaonema, the workhorses of interior landscaping, such as “Creta”, are making an impact. It has brightly-coloured foliage in shades of red, cream and green, and is certainly a vibrant change from the more common varieties of the type, whilst still being robust and easy to look after. Air plants also look to be a popular choice heading into 2018. These varieties are very resilient and tolerant of indoor conditions, making them a perfect choice for the office.
- Glass design and lighting
The materials used in office design can also help employees establish a link with nature. For example, glass is not only an aesthetically pleasing material for architecture; it also allows in plenty of natural light which studies have suggested can have an impact on workers’ productivity levels. What’s more, glass allows employees to enjoy a direct and soothing connection to the outside world by providing views of vegetation.
- Feel serene with the colour green
Adding a splash of colour to a clinical or muted environment can be an inexpensive way to brighten up an office space and stimulate creativity and productivity. In 2018, we expect designers to strongly consider the colours used in the workplace and how their properties impact workers. Green, for example, is the colour of abundance, refreshment and harmony, and with intrinsic links to ‘biophilia’, it can help employees remain calm and efficient.
Beating the blues
In January, its common for employees to suffer from Christmas withdrawal, compounded by the combination of the cold weather and a lack of vitamin D. Consequently, both building managers and employers should ensure that they take advantage of every opportunity to reinvigorate and re-energise the work environment with greenery. You’ll be surprised at the benefits introducing plants to the workplace can deliver both in terms of employee wellbeing, and workplace productivity.
By: Kenneth Freeman, Head of Innovation, Ambius
 Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life, 2013