People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Office Plants!

Plants in workspaces: a good idea.

Although plants are plentiful in workplaces, are they worth the time and effort required to keep them green and healthy?  Now that plant-killing frosts have blanketed much of North America, work by researchers from Norway and Cornell indicating that in-office plants are indeed a good investment seems particularly timely. 

In an article in The Journal of Environmental Psychology, Raanaas, Eversen, Rich, Sjostrom, and Patil (“Benefits of Indoor Plants on Attention Capacity in an Office Setting”) rigorously explore this topic.  These scientists found that cognitive performance was improved when plants were added to an office.

The experiment by Raanaas and her colleagues was run in Norway during the winter. Test subjects with and without potted plants in their work area had a clear view out of the window in the office where the experiment was conducted.  Their view was of a large lawn, other buildings, and deciduous trees, which were devoid of leaves. Two plants with flowers and two foliage-only plants were present during the “with-plants” experimental trials. The two flowering plants were pink Phalaenopsis on a window sill right beside the test subject. The other two plants were an Aglaonema about 30 cm tall on the desk the subject was working at and a Schefflera arboricola about 120 cm tall on the floor between the desk and a bookshelf. 

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So, a little TLC for those office plants will do them, and your cognitive performance, some good. And while you’re breaking out the pots and trowels—a few plants would be a great addition to your home office, as well!

Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.

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