Imagine the stereotypical office on a Monday morning, with gray walls and ceiling, rows and rows of similar desks, and the whole room lit by stark fluorescent lights. Employees can come to work feeling tired shortly after being in the office due to lack of air or motivation, and many people turn to the coffee for the first thing as they continue with work.
Poor air quality
Many modern offices do not even have openable windows, instead relying frequently on air conditioning systems, which can cause high levels of indoor air pollution. This is mainly known as the lack of oxygen in the air and the build up of potentially dangerous VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds such as formaldehyde. These are slowly emitted from objects around the room, for example paint on the walls, exhaust from computers, photocopiers or even as emissions from the air conditioning systems themselves. VOCs are known to cause health problems in many people.
Air conditioning and heating systems can also lower the humidity levels inside offices. Humidity is the measurement of the amount of moisture in the air, and very dry air can cause health problems, including an increased risk of effects from allergies, dry throat and cold symptoms. Humidifiers can be expensive to run.
With this becoming an increasing problem, many companies are finding solutions in the form of office plants. These potted plants can vary in size, from relatively small table top plants, including Scindapsus and Spider plants, to large floor plants including Yucca plants or Ficus (pictured). Managers and directors of commercial premises have realised how many benefits some seemingly simple plants bring to the office, even overlooking the maintenance costs for the benefits they can bring.
Upon entering an office, plants bring an immediate psychological effect. They provide a welcoming splash of color and life, and a sense of being in a much greener, natural environment. Healthy plants are attractive to look at from not only an employee’s point of view, but also from any potential clients or customers of the company as plants can bring an immediate good first impression to them and perhaps even provide a talking point. Although the common joke about never visiting a doctor who has dead plants also applies to offices where clients are visiting!
For employees, office plants are known to provide several health benefits. Plants act as natural air humidifiers. They gradually transpirate – or release water through leaves into the air in the photosynthesis process. With some plants, even office fluorescent lighting is often enough to begin the process for plants which can easily tolerate lower light levels. As long as the plant is watered sufficiently, and also sometimes cleaned of dust, which can build up on leaves, this process will help to balance out water levels.
In the photosynthesis process, plants of course also convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. An increased supply of oxygen is known to make employees more alert, reduce fatigue and increase overall health. This is especially important for offices that have no form of natural ventilation from outside.
As well as removing carbon dioxide, plants can also absorb some of the VOCs. Although almost every plant has a capability to do this, certain plants, such as the Peace Lily or Spider Plant are much more effective at reducing these harmful chemicals than others.
Of course these plants must be maintained at some cost of the company, whether it is time or monetary. For companies who wish to have their plants taken care of, watered and even cleaned, interior landscaping services are available. For smaller offices or those wishing to save on maintenance, employees often care for the plants themselves. However, the time or plant care costs of this are miniscule compared to the proven benefits of which office plants can bring to companies around the world.
About the Author: Kate Dawson is a business and lifestyle blogger, with an interest in the improvement of office environments. She blogs for Ambius, who provide a range of office plants to suit every work environment.