Just being able to see nature has been shown to increase both self-esteem and mood, particularly among younger people.
Attention restoration therapy suggests that looking at nature can cause the brain to shift into a different mode of processing. Researchers studied brain scans of people who were randomly assigned to look at pictures of a green meadow or a concrete roof for 40 seconds. Even this brief glimpse of nature was enough to shift the brain into a more relaxed mode.
Researchers also asked the participants to do a task that measured their attention. The ones who had seen the picture of the meadow performed significantly better than the others, making less mistakes and getting less distracted.
Several other experiments and studies that included sounds of running water and forest smells also show that exposure to nature not only improved subjective measures of stress, but also physiological factors like heart rate and blood pressure.
Nature and the workplace
Many researchers, from all over the world, show bringing nature into the workplace can help reduce stress and increase creativity and focus.
Some researchers suggest humans have an innate need to be connected with nature. This is called Biophilia. But as housing density, commute times, and office hours increase, we are spending less and less time in natural environments.
Researchers from University of Technology Sydney found that bringing plants into workplace not only increased productivity, but also increased concentration and workplace satisfaction.
Another study from researchers in America looked at the connection between environment and employee sickness. They found that 10% of employee absences could be explained by office design that did not include views of nature or sufficient daylight.
The importance of well-designed spaces for employees appears particularly relevant with the rise of open-plan workplaces where employees may have little respite from noise and distraction.
But it’s not just the sights and sounds of nature that are beneficial. It’s also important to create spaces where employees can go to take time out, such as indoor garden spaces. These spaces provide opportunities for restoration, privacy and retreat from noise.
Reflecting over the years the only indoor plants in the office were the occasional dusty, limp palm or a droopy peace lily. In recent years, new offices, cafes and public buildings have a green wall, or indoor plants sprinkled throughout.
Not just another design fad!
The research shows this is not just another office design fad. There is a business case for bringing nature into the office, in terms of reduced costs and increased employee wellbeing and happiness.
It was interesting to note, mental health research organisation the Black Dog Institute estimates mental illness costs the Australian economy more than $12 billion a year in lost productivity and the National Mental Health Commission recently estimated that the cost of services related to mental ill-health in Australia each year clocks in around $4,000 per person, or $60 billion in total in 2016.
This is why bringing nature into the office can have such a big impact on employee wellbeing.
Incorporating nature into the workplace can take many different forms and to take the hassle out of choosing what is the perfect indoor plant and design for your workplace make sure you get in touch with one of Interior Plantscape Association’s amazing plant experts who have an overabundance of horticultural knowledge.