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The Best Plants for Your Office

November 30, 2020
Kyle Grant

The Best Plants for Your Office: Bringing the outside in and the advent of the ‘BrainForest’

TLDR: Plants are good for you, your home, your office, and your creativity. Our answer to staying at home during lockdown was to bring nature inside! Even NASA now has its astronauts on the International Space Station growing flowers to keep them from going bonkers. Some great houseplants to try are Devils Ivy and the Swiss Cheese Plant. You can nab them both as well as many others from our friends over at Bloombox Club. If you want to get creative then why not make the plant pots one evening too. We did this recently and it was a heap of (messy) fun! Sculpd do a great kit for two and their clay air dries in a day.

Building a ‘Brainforest’

Plants are good for the mind. Most people redecorating their office space used to look at ergonomic chairs or new desk decorations. More recently, the latest trend has been 'what type of plants do I want'. ‘Green’ offices is becoming the newest trend! Whether that is for aesthetic reasons, ecological reasons, or health reasons, indoor plants are making a comeback. At Oxwash the first thing in our lagoons isn’t the washing machines, but a whole heap of plants, creating what we call our ‘brainforest’. We even have banks of plants in our processing lines that keep the air clean and fresh.

The incorporation of plants into our everyday lives is not a new construct. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans utilised botanicals to increase the beauty of an area. Let’s not forget Babylon you’ve heard the story of the hanging gardens of Babylon right?! Cascading balconies of vegetation, fields of exotic plants, and rich natural smells-a botanical wonder to any eye. As urbanisation takes over and we spend more time indoors that we try to bring a piece of nature with us.

How can plants improve the workplace?

Having indoor plants in the workplace has been found to facilitate employee happiness, physical and psychological wellbeing, creativity, productivity, efficiency, and satisfaction. Improve the indoor air quality and in turn improve company profits. Are you wondering how? It is the same reason you go on long walks in a park or nature reserve when you want a break, nature relaxes you.

Studies where office space with and without foliage were compared. The urban settings without foliage showed raise levels of stress, anxiety, headaches, and feelings of claustrophobia. This resulted in an overall decrease of work performance, efficiency, and employee happiness. Offices with visible plants, notably more so in office spaces than in break rooms, showed positive effects on employee happiness and well-being. As well as this, employees showed improved levels of stress, anxiety, tiredness, and found they were less distracted and more attenuated to their work. Reports of sickness and absences reduced with an overall increase in job satisfaction.

Having plants and nature as a part of the office adds to your attraction to potential job applicants. Allowing employees to put a piece of themselves into the office by choosing what plant or leaf colour enables expression of character and sense of self in an environment that is often out of their control. Plants can also absorb noise and act as barrier for those who prefer a quieter more private work environment.

Most workplaces including use mechanical ventilation and have fewer usable windows. This limits air exchange and ventilation, the air is then recycled. Air is heated up or cooled down to be re-distributed, during which it starts to degrade releasing toxins and pollutants for us to breathe in- known as poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Poor IAQ is affected by office computers, renovations, building infrastructure, furnishings, cleaning products used and air pollutants such as Carbon dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), even dust and pollen.

Poor IAQ brings about Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), a sickness induced by enclosed spaces where little to no natural engagement occurs. SBS causes, headaches, fatigue, nausea and eye irritation. Hang on we have all felt these in a job … who knew it had a name?

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Plants can remove many toxic chemicals from the air such as hydrocarbons and pollutants such as CO2, asbestos, insulation dust, and pesticides. They also reduce fungi and bacteria growth. However, these are specie dependant for example the Spathiphyllum wallisii (the ‘Peace Lilly’) or Chlorophytum comosum (spider plant) can remove different hydrocarbons. Ultimately cleaning our air and increasing oxygen levels, explaining why they have such a positive effect on us. Have I sold you yet? Plants are an affordable and ecologically friendly solution to poor IAQ and employee happiness and well-being.

Nature's Beauty: Plants make us happier.

Nature is a key ingredient to human existence, its calming effect can also be attributed to our ancestral connection with nature. This innate connection was termed Biophilia by an Edward. O. Wilson who defined it as a ‘innate tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.’

Nature is an integral part of our mind’s evolution; we are evolved to live in a green environment. Our mind develops and grows in response to environmental stimuli. Our brain responds to beauty! Plants, as a visually stimulate the pleasure receptors in our visual cortex, this can induce the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in feelings of calm, relaxation, and comfort.  Foliage has been a positive stimulus throughout human growth and has made us psychologically and physiologically interconnected with nature. It is unfortunately that our minds are so easily thrown into discord within the modern world. Urban settings have the complete opposite effect on us leading to the recent decline in our mental health.

However, our recent generations have instigated a boom in the plant buying industry, Millennials and Gen-Zs are amongst the highest horticultural enthusiasts of our times.

Constant Care and Shipping: The drawbacks of plants

Yes, there are draw backs to potted plants… but it is not as bad as you think. Plants in the office require constant care and maintenance which can become expensive when employees do not always have to time themselves. This often leaves companies to hire personnel to care for them. Some plants require specific living conditions, such as hot or low temperatures, which can be expensive and increase energy use. Allergies and fears also need to be considered, not everyone can tolerate so much foliage. They can also bring with them little pests who can be a nuisance.

You would not think it, but plants leave an ecological footprint. Most indoor plants such as succulents and cacti are shipped from overseas. The little orange pots they arrive in are made from plastic and not all are recyclable. Only 10% of UK recycling centres accept them, considering them as contaminants and leaving them in our growing landfills.  Although, there are recyclable alternatives such as Taupe’s but they are nowhere near as cheap.

Commercially bought soil for the potting and planting of foliage is rather damaging to our environment. The ideal soil for plant growth is called peat. Peat is created from decomposed plant matter found in waterlogged environments, it contains the perfect nutrients for plant growth. Despite this, peat produces carbon during its decomposition that when mixed with air creates CO2 adding to greenhouse gases. The mining of peat is also environmentally expensive as it destroys habitats and those that live them. Peat alternative soils and substrates are now widely available.

What plants should I start with?

The most popular plants for home offices are those that have low maintenance, do not require constant care and are hard to kill, especially in a busy office environment. Here are some of the top plants to have in your workplace:

• Succulents - These plants are often small perfect for the smaller office spaces, they prefer sunlight but do not need constant watering, weekly is enough.
• Cacti- Although a bit spiky they thrive on being left alone; they retain large amounts of water and prefer the light.
• Epipremnum (Devils Ivy) - These little devils do not mind light or dark places and only require watering weekly.
• Aloe Vera – survive well in low light and prefer room temperature, these are very hardy and require little water.
• Chlorophytum (Spider plant) – This plant can go months without water, perfect for a forgetful co-worker. They can survive in low or bright lit areas.
• Aglaonema - These thrive in lower lights, can remove toxins from the air and only need watering weekly
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