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Workplace Wednesday: The Impact of Plants at Work


When it comes to design, “green” should not only come into the conversation when talking about ways to save energy and money. A workplace festooned with greenery—plants, trees, or even images of nature—can greatly improve employees’ health, performance, and satisfaction.

The biologist E.O. Wilson coined the term biophilia, the attraction to life and lifelike processes. Social ecologist Stephen Kellert recommended biophilic design—connecting buildings to the natural world through architecture. These buildings might have gardens, water fountains, wooden furnishings, and natural light. But like most things in life, you can fake it.

Or you can at least take a shortcut.

Simply having plants in the workspace has been shown to increase productivity and cognitive attention. Plants also filter the air to remove mold and bacteria, so it is ideal for each employee to have one at his or her workstation.

Most recently, however, studies have shown that—in order to reap the benefits of a healthier workplace and better performance among employees—you don’t even need plants. Though actual plants have greater benefits overall, images of nature in photographs or even on your computer screen also have been shown to enhance our attention, block out distractions, and help us be more effective workers. The natural attraction to greenery or images of nature through technology has been called technobiophilia. If you are in a space where real plants are not an option, technology may prove effective.