work desk

Most experts agree that creating a stress-free work environment is important for keeping employees happy and productive. Yet, there is data today that shows employees are more overwhelmed than ever. Businesses and employees alike are looking for new ways to help keep productivity up, an overall feeling of happiness in the workplace, and stress at bay. Employers are using all sorts of perks to help achieve this goal, from more time off to exercise equipment. While bigger companies can usually invest in these types of incentives, smaller companies may struggle to execute these initiatives.

There are some small workplace changes that are showing positive success rates, and any employer and employee can implement them. A new research report from the University of Hyogo in Japan, for example, found that just having a small potted plant on your desk will help reduce stress.

“At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace. To ameliorate such situations, we decided it essential to verify and provide scientific evidence for the stress restorative effect by nearby plants in a real office setting,” explains study author Masahiro Toyoda in a release.

It’s already been extensively proven that spending some time outdoors and around nature can do wonders for one’s overall mental health. Office work makes it very difficult for the average employee to get their fill of greenery. Therefore, the research team wanted to investigate just how beneficial indoor plants can be for employees who are cooped up inside all day.

The research team observed workers’ psychological and physiological stress levels before and after a small plant was placed on each one of their desks. In all, 63 Japanese office employees took part in the research, and they were all instructed to take a short three-minute break whenever they started to feel particularly tired or fatigued while on the job. Some of those employees were active in caring for their plants, like watering and interacting, while others were not as much. The researchers also tried tests with different floras, such as San Pedro cactus, foliage plants, kokedama, echeveria, air plants, and bonsai.

They found that 27% of employees in the study showed a significant decrease in resting heart rate when taking a break to interact with the plants. All in all, employees’ anxiety levels dropped considerably after the plants were introduced into the office. These findings held true across all age groups and it didn’t seem to matter which type the employees had on their desk.

The study is the “latest of those that continue to point out that plants are beneficial to humans,” said Dr. Charles Hall, Ellison Chair of International Floriculture at Texas A&M University. “It’s something we inherently knew but has suddenly been quantified. And so now, we’re seeing the numbers behind the reasoning.”

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