People–plant relationships affect worker competitiveness, well-being

Study shows ornamental plants can reduce worker stress, enhance coping strategies

A team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Roskilde University say that plants are more than just aesthetic additions to office settings. Jane Dyrhauge Thomsen, Renate Müller, and Hans Sønderstrup-Andersen know full well the multiple advantages that ornamental plants can bring to offices; their recent study of people–plant relationships shows that plants can increase inspiration and productivity and decrease workers’ stress levels, among other benefits.

"Researching the impact of various elements of the working environment is important to secure the company's competitiveness as well as the well-being of the employees," said Thomsen, the lead author of a study published in HortScience. The researchers used observations, group and individual interviews, questionnaires, and statistical material about workplaces to gather data for their in-depth study. "Our results documented that ornamental plants are an integrated part of the workplace," Thomsen said. "The employees we studied used ornamental plants in numerous ways to either actively manipulate different aspects of the surroundings or more passively cope with demands from the surroundings."

Ornamental plants were perceived as affecting many aspects of the working environment, including attributes such as physical surroundings, social climate, and the image of the workplace. Plants were also reported to have effects on employees' moods, well-being, emotions, and self-confidence, and to some degree, the perceived competitiveness of workplaces.

Some employees in the study reported that they looked at ornamental plants to get inspiration to solve difficult tasks, supporting the assumption that the presence of ornamental plants might improve creative task performance. The study also reported that plants may influence productivity; results showed that presence of ornamental plants was thought to be associated with efficiency.

"Our research confirmed previous studies that showed the use of ornamental plants to be related to stress reduction because plants enhance coping strategies. This study documented that certain ways of applying plants (e.g., looking at or maintaining ornamental plants) served as part of a coping strategy when feeling stressed," Thomsen noted.

The scientists said that their study revealed that people–plant relationships are a social phenomenon, influencing the social climate, hierarchy, and interaction among the employees in the workplace.

Source: ASHS Press Release

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