AWAJI, Japan — It’s well documented at this point. Modern employees are feeling more stressed than ever. All of that work anxiety has prompted employers and companies to try out a variety of soothing activities for their employees, from morning meditation sessions to video games in the break room. Now, a new study identifies a charmingly simple solution. Researchers from the University of Hyogo in Japan say that small potted plants around the office can go a long way towards relieving employee stress.
It’s already been extensively proven that spending some time outdoors and around nature can do wonders for one’s overall mental health. Of course, office work makes it very difficult for the average employee to get his or her fill of green views. So, the research team wanted to investigate just how beneficial indoor plants can be for employees who are cooped up inside all day.
In an effort to produce as accurate results as possible, the study’s authors conducted their experiment in a real-life office setting and with actual employees, instead of a more scientifically traditional lab setting. More specifically, researchers wanted to determine just how much relief workers felt after intentionally looking at an indoor plant whenever they started to feel tired on the job. That being said, passive interaction with the plants were also considered.
“At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace. To ameliorate such situations, we decided it essential to verify and provide scientific evidence for the stress restorative effect by nearby plants in a real office setting,” explains study author Masahiro Toyoda in a release.
The research team observed workers’ psychological and physiological stress levels before and after a small plant was placed on each one of their desks. In all, 63 Japanese office employees took part in the research, and they were all instructed to take a short three minute break whenever they started to feel particularly tired or fatigued while on the job.
The experiment consisted of two parts: a control phase in which the employees worked normally without any plants in the office, and an experimental phase in which each employee was given a plant for their desk and told to maintain its health. Researchers then used a standard test to measure employees’ psychological stress levels. An overwhelming majority of employees displayed significantly lower pulse rates after taking a three minute break and interacting with their desk plant, indicating a noticeable drop in stress levels.
Researchers separated participating employees’ interactions with their plants into two categories, active (caring for their desk plant, intentionally looking at / interacting with it whenever they felt stressed) and passive (simply having the plant near their computer monitor throughout the work day). The authors found that just the sight of a plant alone has the power to help soothe an employee.
As far as which plants were placed on employees’ desks, each participant had a choice of six different options: san pedro cactus, foliage plants, kokedama, echeveria, air plants, or bonsai plants.
All in all, employees’ anxiety levels dropped considerably after the plants were introduced into the office. These findings held true across all age groups and it didn’t seem to matter which type the employees had on their desk.
So, if you find every day of work to be taxing on the mind, head to your local nursery. A little foliage friend may be just what the doctor ordered.
The study is published in the scientific journal HortTechnology.