Dr Stephen Kaplan, of the University of Michigan and co-author of ‘The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective’ (1989) says that “many people have an intuitive sense that contact with nature is beneficial.” Kaplan states that stress is a bodily reaction to harm or threatened harm. This is often confused with mental fatigue which, rather than being a result of bad things, is a result of too many things. Kaplan, a Doctor in psychology, says that people can benefit from being in close proximity to natural things even though they are not anticipating harm.

Professor Tøve Fjeld of the University of Norway in Sweden undertook two case studies, one at the Winterswijjk Tax office in the Netherlands and one at the Norwegian State Oil Company. The most significant findings showed that the air quality where plants were present was of a higher quality and that productivity improved. This was particularly evident in the improved concentration and efficiency levels of those participants working on computers.

Helen Russel, an MSc graduate at Surrey University (UK), undertook some extensive tests to use for her dissertation. Russel attached sensors to the skin of the participants in order to measure skin conductivity, heart rate and blood pressure while being subjected to mental arithmetic tasks while being intentionally distracted. The tests showed that stress levels for those in rooms where plants were present were lower and also that the recovery rate during the post test period was quicker than those in the empty environment.

Developing a ‘high performance organisation’ has become a performance measurement indicator for every senior manager. This typically starts with the selection, development and retention of the right people.

There are numerous factors that positively influence the ability of a workforce to operate at the highest level. These need to operate in combination in order to optimise both personal and organisational output. The convincing evidence presented in these modern studies supports the importance of incorporating indoor plants into the office design. The higher levels of employee satisfaction, the reduced stress levels and improved physical health are sure to have a direct influence on productivity levels.

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