Why Are Offices Turning Into Botanical Spaces?
Most offices have a few plants dotted around the place. Some companies, however, like to take things to extremes. Amazon has treehouses inside its offices, Microsoft employees work in treehouses in the woods; while Timberland’s headquarters has gardens with orchards.
The benefits of bringing plants in workspaces are well documented. Researchers have found that as well as brightening up the office environment, plants can reduce sick days and stress. Danica-Lea Larcombe from Australia’s Edith Cowan University wrote in the online publication The Conversation that indoor plants can “scrub” the air of bacteria; remove harmful chemical compounds released by cleaning products; and improve people’s moods.
Companies of all sizes are taking note. Steve Taylor, project director at office designer Peldon Rose, helped create a botanical meditation area for digital media company Essence’s London office. “We created a mini oasis out of three or four trees; it had benches covered in moss; the walls were clad in moss. As soon as you opened the doors, it immediately symbolised that this was a space to relax in, to squish your toes into the grass, lie back and enjoy nature,” he says.
The Essence meditation room has real plants. Taylor says many companies do not, however, want the added responsibility of keeping plants alive. “I’ve worked with some clients who had living walls built by other companies, and their living wall very quickly became a dead wall, which is not a very nice symbol of your organisation. So you have to get the right balance.”
There is the added complication of allergies when introducing real plants into the office space. Nicolas Tye Architects in Bedfordshire had to empty its offices of plants when one of its workers had an allergic reaction to them. Instead of the plants, it now has vast windows overlooking the countryside and a workplace vegetable garden.
Nicolas Tye says some staff are reluctant to engage in the gardening. “That includes me as well. I do very long hours, I don’t really have time for all sorts of things.” But, he says: “You see the difference in people being involved in non-work stuff around you.”
There are tangible benefits to a company’s bottom line from enriching the workspace with plants or other elements, says Dr Craig Knight of the University of Exeter. He undertook research to investigate the prevailing wisdom of the so-called lean space: the idea that if there is nothing in the space except the job to be done, workers will concentrate and be more productive…
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