By Daniel Hunter
Workers who have a plant on their desk or near to their workstation take fewer sick days and tend to be happier and more productive, according to health and safety law consultancy firm, www.protecting.co.uk.
This follows studies that show that workers feel more engaged with their work, and truly believe in positive enhancements to their work surrounds if they have a "green friend" with them.
On the other hand, workers know when they're being cheated, and there's no noticeable benefit if their workplace is filled with fake plastic plants, Protecting.co.uk's survey found.
"It's all about feeling involved with your job," said Protecting.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, "and somehow a plant on your desk makes all the difference."
The most recent study, published in 2014 by Cardiff-based researchers, says that workers have a greater sense of responsibility if they have a living thing to care for in their immediate vicinity, and this is reflected in their work.
Results show that simply providing a greener office space shows an immediate increase in productivity, as well as a long-term 15% decline in sick leave.
An earlier Australian study suggested that plants in the workplace resulted in huge reductions in common workplace problems and illnesses:
Tension/Anxiety — 37% reduction
Depression/Dejection — 58% reduction
Anger/Hostility — 44% reduction
Fatigue — 38% reduction
Interviews with office workers found that they enjoyed working in an office with plants, but felt let down by artificial greenery and/or bosses employing indoor gardening firms to look after the plants for them.
Protecting.co.uk spoke to employees who sat in varied surroundings, from bare and Spartan offices, to workplaces that had a variety of greenery.
Alice, an insurance clerk said: "I feel guilty if I take time off now. I have to make arrangements for somebody to water Algernon while I'm away. And if I take a sick day, I'm more worried about his welfare than my own."
Paula, civil servant: "You won't believe the fight we had to get potted plants in our place. Our office now looks like you'd almost like to be there now. We've even got a plant care rota, and that's made us more of a team."
Brian, team leader: "We asked the chiefs for plants, and a truckload of plastic ones turned up, which are universally hated and are effectively used as rubbish bins. People ended up bringing their own in as a form of guerrilla gardening."
Chiang, underwriter: "I couldn't believe it when somebody in a logo-ed polo shirt came in and watered our plants. It turns out the boss doesn't want us 'wasting our time' on our plants, so they paid an agency to do it for us. Outraged. That's the one job I look forward to!"
Chiang also told Protecting.co.uk that their team was so enthused by their office plants that they now grow veg in a plot at the far end of the car park, a move initially opposed by management, but is now considered an essential part of team building and well-being, he says.
Protecting.co.uk said that it's clear that plants in (and in some cases, outside) the office have beneficial effects on staff morale, health and workplace efficiency.
"With reduced sickness and increased work rates, it is obvious that getting some greenery for the staff offers a massive return on investment," says Protecting.co.uk's Mark Hall.
"There are other advantages, too, that you might not have thought of," he continues. "Visiting clients will think better of a more welcoming work space; and more relaxed surroundings make it easier to communicate with your employees."
Protecting.co.uk says that employers should always consider ideas that make their workplaces a more pleasant place to spend the day.
"Happy, healthy workers are more productive and more loyal workers," says Hall.