The value of plants in the workplace

16th September 2021 | 4 min read

For Rupert Baldwin, Director of Operations and Business Development at Light, Water, Plants, it’s a no brainer that businesses should invest in greening their offices because being surrounded by plants is hugely beneficial for people’s wellbeing.

The two most notable benefits being the easing of stress and improvement of air quality, says Rupert, whose firm sources, delivers, installs and maintains plants.

Rupert considers that, particularly for offices in London, these benefits offered by plants couldn’t be more necessary. “We are all surrounded by more noise, construction, traffic, hustle and bustle than ever before, and I think plants have an amazing calming effect and help to break up otherwise dull office spaces,” he says.

His views are backed up by a plethora of research, including a study conducted by psychologist Dr Craig Knight of the Identity Realisation research group at the University of Exeter, in association with Indoor Garden Design at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show. The study found that office plants can assist in boosting staff well-being by up to 47%

Knight has explored this more in collaboration with academics from other universities, including Australia and the Netherlands. The group examined how working in offices devoid of plants compared to those which were greened. Its findings, reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments, indicated “that a green working environment was consistently more enjoyable for employees, more conducive to concentration, and more productive for the business than its lean equivalent. Indeed, simply enriching a previously spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15%—a figure that aligns closely with findings in previously conducted laboratory studies”.

More recently, a study published in December 2019 from Japan’s University of Hyogo by Masahiro Toyoda, Yuko Yokota, Marni Barnes, and Midori Kaneko explored the use of indoor plants to improve mental health among employees who were generally not exposed to green environments. The findings showed that placing even small plants in the sight of employees contributed to a reduction in stress reduction regardless of their age or plants choice.

Tips for bringing plants into the office

Two key factors determine what types of plants will thrive in an environment – light and humidity, Rupert explains.

So, when you’re considering buying plants for the office you first need to work out where they are going to live in your workspace to determine how much direct and indirect light they will receive as this will impact what plants will survive best where.

“Plants adapt to their environment; however, some are better than others when it comes to office spaces. Ideally, they’d have a settled atmosphere, without too much change,” Rupert adds.

But given every office usually has air-conditioning, Rupert suggests that it’s often safer to invest in plants such as Kentia Palms, Zamioculas, Sansevierias, Dracaena varieties, Aspidistras, Asplenium Ferns, Aglaenoemas. “They’re all proven office lovers and sturdy to change,” he says. “These stereotypical office plants are always a safe bet and don’t tend to increase in price much, particularly the Kentia Palm. It’s a great plant and you get a lot of bang-for-your-buck!”

The Kentia Palm is also one that is good for helping improve air quality. “All plants provide air purifying qualities, but some are better than others,” Rupert adds and as well as the Kentia Palm these include the Ficus Benjamina, Aspidistra and Philodendron Selloum.

Personally though, his plant of choice is Ficus Elastica (Rubber Plant) – he has two at his home. Rupert says this is because “it’s sturdy, has lovely rich, dark green leaves, isn’t fussy and looks amazing – particularly the stemmed and branched varieties”.

Additionally, when choosing plants for an office space you should also consider the maintenance required by the types of plants you are looking at as “some plants are fussier than others and therefore require a lot more TLC week to week, whereas others can be very much of the less is more approach and thrive with seeming neglect” Rupert says.

The cost of enriching a workplace with plants “largely comes down to the aesthetic that you’re looking to create in the office,” Rupert says. “You can be effective with lots of small tabletop or shelf type plants to plug gaps and break up space, or you can be more minimalist but go for larger impact pieces which also have effect.” Small plants that are also good for helping improve air quality include cacti, succulents and Monstera Trail.

Office plants can be purchased from places such as the New Covent Garden Plant & Flower market based in Nine Elms, which operates in the early hours of the morning, or you can use the services of companies such as Light, Water, Plants. There are also now several online outlets, but these websites are becoming increasingly expensive due to Brexit and COVID-19 issues, Rupert warns.

For example, Rupert and Light, Water, Plants worked with LABS’ design team at Victoria House in Holborn to incorporate different types of plants such Ficus Lyrata and Ficus Elastica to enhance the spaces. During the process he inspected the property to assess the light aspects of the spaces and made checks to attain heights and widths, proximity to radiators or air-conditioning and then sent them a plan suggesting plants for specific areas.