Workspace

The science-backed guide to plants for flexible offices

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28/08/2019

Nearly two-thirds of those who work in a flexible office think that having plants in their workspace is important, but only 47% are satisfied with the ones in their current office, as discussed in our What Coworkers Want report. With plants being able to add a more natural feel to a corporate office building and improve air quality if chosen carefully, they are an important factor that providers should be considering.  

In an era where we’re spending longer in an office and less time outside, it’s even more important to think about biophilic design. The average working week is now 38 hours, according to Workthere research, and having a living plant wall in sight, or some potted plants just around the corner, can make a significant difference to how workers feel on a daily basis. Most flexible offices are embracing biophilic design; Uncommon in Liverpool Street boasts a 5m Ficus tree and 700 plants, whilst One Heddon Street in Mayfair has a 40m² living wall.

How to incorporate plants into an office

There are a number of ways that biophilia can be incorporated into an office:

  1. Pot plants. The easiest and cheapest way of including plants in an office is by buying a simple pot plant, which you can find at plant nurseries, garden centres, dedicated plant shop or even supermarkets. Pot plants can be placed on the floor, on shelves or on dedicated plant stands.
  2. Suspended from the ceiling. Hanging plants from the ceiling is quickly gaining popularity and is a particularly space efficient way to add some greenery to a workplace. Some flexible offices have even started incorporating ceiling vines.
  3. A living wall. Those who are fully dedicated to providing a greener office can incorporate a living wall, which is an entire panel of plants attached to a wall. Living walls are more costly than the first two options, but they truly cultivate a more natural environment.

How plants improve air quality and noise level

Out of the 48 office components that we asked flexible office workers about in our What Coworkers Want report, air quality had the biggest differential in terms of importance and satisfaction. 80% of flexible office workers think that air quality is important, but only 52% are happy with it.

Not only can plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, but they can also remove harmful pollutants. A study conducted by NASA found that plants can remove up to 90% of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical found in cigarette smoke, plastics and car fumes. The presence of vegetation can also remove significant amounts of trichloroethylene from the air, which can cause nervous system damage at high levels.

Noise level saw the third greatest differential in terms of importance vs satisfaction, with 78% of flexible office workers thinking it’s important, but only 53% feeling satisfied with it. Plants can even help reduce noise levels by blocking high-frequency noise and the supporting infrastructure can help reduce low-frequency sounds.

The best office plants for improving air quality

We use data from NASA’s Clean Air Study to rank different plants by their ability to improve air quality. The plant that came out top was the Gerbera daisy, which has top air cleaning qualities but is a little more colourful than your standard flexible office plant, so perhaps not for everyone. The Peace lily ranked second; a more conventional addition to an office. In third place we have English ivy, which can offer another understated way of incorporating greenery.

 

Our plant ranking incorporates their ability to remove two potentially dangerous chemicals (benzene and trichloroethylene), but there are a multitude of factors to consider when choosing office plants, with personal preference often playing a significant role. As with many things, both office-related and more generally speaking, there’s no one-size fits all, but we hope our plant air quality ranking helps you make an informed decision when next choosing plants for your office.

To find out more about What Coworkers Want

Read our full report