Green Office – It Really Works!
The times when office space was impersonal and had no soul are gone forever. Besides, an attempt to completely separate office space from real life was just utopia. Human beings cannot and should not function away from nature. Because they are connected to nature in a very special way, often unaware of having profited from that connection. Also at work.
Taming the space
“With no plants there would be no world – it is a cliché, but worth being repeated. The justification is based on chemistry – if there were no plants, sooner or later we would suffocate because of no oxygen available”, says Łukasz Marcinkowski, the owner of a flower shop called Kwiaty & Miut, who is a florist and furniture designer. “To be honest, the civilisation and technology advancement often harms our ties with nature, but it will never break them. As evidenced, there is a change in the attitude towards plants being an important element of the office space. In ofices where there are no plants, the workers are less productive compared to those offices having plants, where those numbers are much higher. It is estimated that the difference may reach up to 15 %”, he adds.
We spend one third of weekly working hours at work. No wonder, we try to make our workplace look more personal – photo frames, postcards from holidays, colourful calendars – all that serves taming the workplace. Potted plants can do that too, either the small ones placed on desks or window sills or the big ones in large pots that stand on the floor. “ Potted plants near your desk create a more home-like atmosphere in your workplace. In turn, thanks to larger plants, we are able to tame the open-space office by forming natural barriers between desks. That allows us to create a more intimate zone and besides that – which is essential in such offices – it reduces noise coming from adjacent desks. You can obtain this effect when you use tall and slender plants in simple, subtle and high flower pots”, advises Łukasz Marcinkowski.
Building the image
“Introducing” plants into the office builds a positive image of an employer who takes care of the well-being of his workers. And the employer is perceived in this way both by visitors to that company and by his staff. “Nowadays, when it gets really hard to find good and dedicated employees, the way the team perceives the boss is crucial. That’s why, it’s a simple and inexpensive solution to have plants introduced into the workplace”, says the owner of Kwiaty & Miut flower shop. He also reminds that more and more often plants are being used as an element of a well- thought-out strategy to build a comprehensive image of a given company. “Entrepreneurs see this in two different ways. The more common way is to use eye-catching plants in the most representative places in the office, e.g. hallways, customer-service rooms, secretary rooms, waiting-rooms or on patio. There is, however, another trend growing, connected with creating some special space that immediately take plants into consideration. These are, for example, conservatories, gardens or lawn areas on the roofs or green walls made from flowers and plants in places like canteens, common rooms or open-space offices, which become more and more popular. In one of the office buildings in Tokyo even a vegetable garden was set up and the vegetables coming from that garden were served to their workers at lunchtime”, says Łukasz Marcinkowski.
While thinking of using plants in this way, it’s worth remembering we should never select plants randomly; instead, we should consider the roles they are expected to play. They should also match the character of the space; if we wish to create a peaceful and toned down atmosphere like, for instance, in customer service units – it is harmony we should go for, on the other hand, if we choose the element of surprise, e.g. in the hall of an advertising agency – it is contrast we aim for.
Cleaning the air
Radiesthesia practitioners believe that plants produce two kinds of energy: aggressive (stimulating) and positive (calming). It depends on the shape of leaves and plant structure. A good designer can skilfully make use of that and create a concept of the plant arrangements in the office. It concerns such places where, for example, if productivity is vital, then the plants we choose should influence people in a stimulating way and motivate them to work better. To achieve that, you need to select the plants that have a more “predatory” appearance like e.g. spider plants, dracaena varieties, different palm trees, ferns and ivy. In the so-called places of increased risk – which is where you directly contact your customers, the plants that have a soothing effect both on clients and staff will be strongly recommended.
“Being surrounded by plants may reduce the stress level and relieve tired eyes after having spent long hours at a computer screen. Because looking at green plants does relax you and your eyes”, explains Łukasz Marcinkowski. He adds that plants don’t only positively affect our eyes. They increase air humidity, which is extremely important in case of air-conditioned offices with no tilt windows. We need to remember that the air we breath is polluted by car exhaust, smoke from chimneys, toxic chemicals in varnish, furniture, wall paper, floor lining and glues – we aren’t aware of how many dangerous substances are around us on a regular basis. And the accumulation of toxic substances inside buildings could be harmful to people’s health.
To eliminate the negative impact of pollution upon human organisms, we need plants which function as natural filters. “ The so-called green revolution, i.e. the introduction of plants into office space, was influenced by the NASA study. John C. Stennis has examined 50 kinds of houseplants and proved that they can clean and purify the air in hermetically closed research chambers”, says the owner of Kwiaty & MIUT. He recommends areca palm tree as a plant with unusual purifying qualities since it absorbs toxic toluene and xylene and which is a perfect air humidifier (during 24 hours it can produce about 1 litre water). Other plants that help to remove toxins from the office are: dracaena, ficus, palms, climbing plants (e.g. ivy or climbing philodendron) as well as dieffenbachia, nephrolepis exalta (Boston fern), schefflera (umbrella plant) and spider plant, among others. Close to staff smoking rooms it is advisable to place e.g. radermachera (serpent tree or emerald tree), peace lily and araucaria (monkey puzzle tree) because they can absorb harmful components of tobacco smoke.
We need to remember that potted plants additionally clean indoor air, regulate room temperature and reduce noise. It is equally important that plants can improve the sense of security, concentration and general well-being of the team, by eliminating, to a certain extent, the feeling of fatigue.