Green Office: How Office Plants boost Productivity & Satisfaction

Dustin Staiger

In many offices today, a “clean” aesthetic is in vogue, and it’s easy to see why. When you walk into an office with bare desks and lots of straight lines, it looks efficient and modern. This can lead you to believe the no-nonsense design style of the office might imbue its employees with those same qualities. As a result, business owners who are eager to boost their employees’ productivity want to adopt this look. The truth, however, is that businesses aiming for a sparse, clean office design in the hopes of boosting productivity could actually be shooting themselves in the foot.

We spend 90% of our time indoors. Our built environment has a profound impact on our health, well-being, happiness and productivity. You can optimize the human potential of your office by placing people at the heart of the building and design utilizing the concepts from WELL Building Standard, a new building initiative launched in 2014 focused on maximizing the human experience. WELL marries best practices in design and construction with evidence-based medical and scientific research – harnessing the built environment as a vehicle to support human health and well-being. 

Dr. Craig Knight, a psychologist from Exeter University who’s been studying workplace environments for 10 years, stated that offices that try to remove so-called distractions, such as pictures, plants, personal affects, or outside views, are creating the most toxic spaces imaginable for the human mind. Lab studies have hinted for a while that sunlight, visually stimulating views, and greenery can boost the health and productivity of office workers. Moving beyond these lab studies, Dr. Knight and his colleagues conducted the first experiments in actual operating offices. These experiments proved the real-world benefits of visually engaging and, most importantly, green office spaces.


For some reason, plants make people more relaxed and happy. While the exact reason is unknown, it’s often attributed to ‘biophilia’, the theory that humans have an instinctive bond with other living things. Whatever the cause, studies have conclusively shown that introducing plants can lessen stress in office workers by reducing anxiety, depression, workplace hostility, and fatigue. Office plants also improve the physical quality of the environment that employees work in. Plants act as natural air filters, significantly decreasing levels of carbon-dioxide, dust, and mold, which otherwise cause drowsiness and contribute to health problems in employees. These reported benefits are all backed up by observable improvements in employee health, such as lower blood pressure, reduced absenteeism, and fewer minor illnesses. For more about Biophilia visit Ambius’ interactive Biophilia microsite here.

“plants boost employee satisfaction by as much as 40%”



Numerous studies over the past decade have demonstrated that creating a visually engaging office environment improves office productivity and employee health. Windows that provide natural light and outside views are particularly important. One study sited in a report by the World Green Building Council noted that office workers who have windows that provide natural light tend to sleep about 46 minutes longer each night than their coworkers who don’t have windows. Those same workers also report getting better sleep each night and having an overall better quality of life. All these factors play a major role in an employee’s health and well-being. They are also crucial to producing more productive, invested employees. As important as natural lighting is, the view those windows offer can be even more important.


Outdoor views provide valuable visual stimulation for your employees. Interesting views help break up the monotony of an office environment. More importantly, they help keep your employees alert and at peak performance by improving concentration, relieving stress, and even spurring creativity. While natural views are best, cityscapes and even stimulating indoor décor can help boost your employees’ productivity. If you’re in an office that doesn’t have big picture windows with green vistas, don’t panic. You don’t necessarily need to knock out any walls or cultivate an elaborate garden to improve your office environment. In fact, the easiest, least expensive, and greenest way to increase productivity and employee satisfaction in your office is to add some office plants.


It’s no joke. One of the single most cost-effective, beneficial things you can do for your business is to simply add a few plants around your office. When Dr. Knight’s team conducted their experiment to improve real-world utilitarian office spaces, they discovered that after office plants were added to a work space, employee productivity rose by 15%. Another study published in September 2014 in the Psychological Journal of Experimental Psychology found that plants boost employee satisfaction by as much as 40%. As amazing as it sounds, when workers had plants in their offices, their concentration and cognitive function actually showed substantial improvement. These employees retained information better, made fewer mistakes in their work, and completed their tasks more quickly. All this resulted in a dramatic rise in office productivity. 

“after office plants were added to a work space, employee productivity rose by 15%.”



When it comes to designing with plants, the function of a space should be considered. A call center should be separated differently than a space for analysts where concentration is needed, or an ad agency where collaboration is key. The strategic placements of plants can create psychological borders providing separation and absorbing sound. 


The best part is that the changes you can make to your office to benefit from natural light, outside views, and green growing décor don’t need to be drastic or cost your business a lot of money. Sunlight and any outside views you have are valuable resources to improve productivity, so maximize your use of windows. Try converting areas and offices with lots of windows and natural light into communal workspaces that everyone can access. To improve the air quality in your office, you only need one plant for every three employees. To obtain the mental health benefits and productivity boosts that plants provide, each employee should be able to see at least one plant from his or her desk. By strategically placing your plants around the office, you can even use them as sound barriers that absorb distracting background noise. Remember, good design is all about making your space work for you, and you can do a lot with a few minor improvements.