Going back to work: Supporting employees’ well-being with plants
Lockdown restrictions and working from home won’t last forever
But the caution and fear learned over the past several weeks will linger long in the minds of workers around the world. Workers returning to work worry whether their workplaces will protect their well-being or put them in danger of infection. Worry is stressful, and we all know that the physical and mental hazards of stress lead to negative impacts on business. Savvy employers recognize and understand these concerns and will address them before their businesses suffer.
One such technique that helps relieve fears of infection, cleans the air, delivers ongoing productivity-enhancing benefits, and improves the aesthetics of any indoor space is biophilic design. Biophilic design addresses the human need to connect to nature in an indoor environment. Research has proven that bringing natural elements indoors delivers many benefits, not the least of which include ‘decreased stress, enhanced creativity, and accelerated recovery from illness.’ Workers wary of returning to a crowded office will appreciate that.
Biophilic design entails more than sticking a potted plant in the corner of a room.
It encompasses the use of sunlight, natural materials, and even water fountains as well as the integration of plants. Of all these aspects, live greenery delivers the greatest, longest-lasting impact and is the most easily-incorporated feature to soothe worry and stress.
A primary factor in the use of indoor plantings to protect and enhance workers’ health is humidity. In simple terms, adding plants raises the humidity of the environment through the natural process of transpiration. This is clearly beneficial, because humidity dampens contagion. The upshot: coughs and sneezes have less chance of spreading germs in an office lush with living plants.
Indoor plants also deliver benefits related to cleaning the air we breathe. HGTV and Country Living both offer lists of air-purifying plants which remove airborne toxins. Several also add welcome splashes of colour.
In addition to research about the detriment of open office plans, The Wall Street Journal confirms what workers already know: the open office plan of modern workspaces allows germs to circulate unimpeded.Â The lack of physical barriers between employees foments the spread of disease, a reality of which we are now all too aware, especially when desks are positioned too closely to observe social distancing. Unfortunately, renovating buildings or building new workplaces isn’t a feasible option for many businesses.
Biophilic design comes to the rescue.
And it need not be labour-intensive to maintain. Living screens absorb sound, humidify the air, add privacy, and serve as physical barriers to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Mobile versions of living screens allow for variable configurations, so they can be moved wherever they’ll do the most good. Cabinet-top trough displays add height and much needed greenery to half-walls and cabinets while permitting air flow. Combined with free-standing planters, a variety of tall specimen plants and houseplants relieves visual monotony. Indoor gardens treat the eyes and encourage the mind and body to take a deep breath and relax.
The success of lockdown has left people fearing to return to work. After weeks of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, anything that relieves fear, worry, and stress, and which boosts workers’ well-being, is worth the investment for both human capital and the bottom line. Indoor gardens soothe anxiety, boost mental and physical wellness, and protect health, all of which leads to better business.