Recent studies have focused on the question, do plants increase productivity? By incorporating the natural world into an office, are conditions improved and workers more productive overall? It’s a question worth examining, and while we’re biased here at Epic Gardening, the result of a few studies might surprise you!
A study from the Netherlands used three field experiments to determine whether or not office landscaping had a positive effect on productivity. Subjective and objective outcomes were measured. In conjunction with this study, researchers at two other universities determined that just one plant per square meter could improve morale.
The American Society for Horticultural Science also conducted a study of four groups of office dwellers on a spectrum where. Some worked in offices with no windows or plants, and some worked in offices with plentiful windows and plants. The ASHS found those with more windows and more plants rated their job satisfaction higher than those with no plants and no windows.
This research paper, funded by universities and horticultural institutions, found the effect of plants on VOCs (volatile organic compounds) supports more sustainable urban communities. Potted plants placed in the workplace showed an eliminative impact on VOCs in just under 24 hours.
Another study from the Journal of Corporate Real Estate determined plants have the ability to remove VOCs in offices. They demonstrated that well-being is directly related to productivity, as “occupants of planted offices feel more comfortable, more productive, healthier and more creative and feel less pressure than occupants of non‐planted offices.”
These studies give us evidence that supports the benefit office plants bring to the workplace, reducing carbon dioxide ratios as they perform photosynthesis. This research suggests cleaner air quality has a direct correlation with well-being. Workplace satisfaction is higher in a green office.
Plants That Increase Productivity
Aglaonema ‘Spring Snow’.
So which plants will help you make it through a day in the office with more ease? We’ve compiled a list of 20 indoor plants you can incorporate into your office environment. All of these are known to act as natural air filters and give you a boost throughout the work week.
There are so many aglaonema varieties and so many colors among them. Bringing plants of the Aglaonema species into offices is sure to have multiple applications. Among the research mentioned above, this Chinese evergreen helped people in the workplace with increased productivity, lower stress levels, and better overall performance.
If greenery isn’t your thing, you can pick a red or multicolored-non-green variety and receive the same benefits to your mood. You can expect the distracting effects of computer screens to be lessened and your attention span increased.
Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor Rainbow’.
The Madagascar Dragon Tree is a taller plant that brings a bit of tropical nature indoors. They need little maintenance, preferring to be root bound, and only need water every week or so. Among the horticultural sciences, there is widespread conviction that Dracaena species help employees maintain productivity by absorbing sounds in a room, limiting distraction, and increasing workplace health.
Dracaena marginata, and more specifically, the Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ cultivar, are perfect ways to bring the natural world into the office, limit the amount of VOCs, and cut down noise levels.
Known botanically as Epipremnum aureum, the pothos plant is one of the most common houseplants out there. With 15 different species and numerous types of pothos to choose from, you have plenty of aesthetic directions you can go. A traditional golden pothos brings lightness in the form of lovely variegated foliage and in its ability to clear the air.
This is one of those plants that thrives in low light conditions, and it’s one of those natural air filters that boosts the quality of the air in the office. As we have discussed, better air quality relates directly to well-being.
The heartleaf philodendron is perhaps the most well-known philodendron plant. These plants need some natural light but thrive in indirect light settings. Therefore, it’s perfect for a room with lower light. Not only will the philodendron help with memory retention, keeping employees psychologically engaged, but you’ll also have cleaner air and, in turn, fewer sick days.
Try ‘Congo’ for even more lush greenery and palm-like leaves if that’s a better fit for your office. You can even grow several different kinds in small pots all over the office. The loveliness of philodendrons will also improve your team’s overall self-esteem!
With the botanical name of Sansevieria trifasciata and a common name of Mother-in-law’s tongue, snake plants are perhaps the most studied plants by air quality and horticultural researchers. Snake plants bring lots of green color with variations to an environment and are known to boost mood and improve workplace air quality.
They’re a stark addition to the office, and bringing plants like these will reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide in the air and in turn, increase workplace satisfaction.
Schefflera arboricola ‘Janine’.
Umbrella Tree care is so simple; why wouldn’t someone incorporate its lovely foliage in their office? An ‘Amate’ Umbrella Tree is sure to bring a dash of variegated foliage and positive effect to the workplace, increasing productivity as it cleans the air.
Research suggests umbrella plants filter from the air the toxins benzene, formaldehyde, and toluene. This research reinforces the speculation that plant lovers have had for some time: plants boost health and mood in whatever room they’re in!
Much like the umbrella tree, peace lily care is pretty easy! Try the varieties Spathiphyllum ‘Petite’ , or Spathiphyllum ‘Sensation’, for rich greenery that makes the environment that much more enjoyable. Rather than a desk plant, the peace lily is perfect in larger pots and parts of the office that don’t receive a ton of natural light.
The flowers of the peace lily are lovely too! Seeing them grow and develop will improve the health of employees by lowering their stress levels, and providing a more productive space to work in.
The botanical name for the ZZ plant is Zamioculcas zamiifolia. This is one of those premiere plants studied in research that says plants boost the air quality in the room they’re placed in. Fresh air is often hard to come by in an office, but adding small ZZ plants to your desk will improve that!
The ZZ plant is so easy to take care of, with very little fuss needed to keep its greenery lush and beautiful. Your productivity won’t be interrupted by pruning and watering.
Baby Rubber Plant
Peperomia obtusifolia, or all Peperomia species in general, are fun and cute plants that grow slowly and need very little sun to thrive. Research has shown that formaldehyde levels are much lower in offices with a baby rubber plant or two. Their greenery comes in the form of leathery, round leaves with small, green flowers.
Bring a little bit of nature to the working environment with a baby rubber plant, and you’ll have added benefits of fewer sick days and happier, more productive employees.
Purple Passion Plant
Also known as the purple velvet plant, Gynura aurantiaca offers the office an alternative to the color green. With green leaves covered in lovely purple fuzz, you can add an interesting natural feature to any environment. They thrive in the humidity levels of indoor conditions, and absorb carbon dioxide, bringing in more fresh air in the process.
If your office is more about the unique members of the natural world, purple passion plants are great for you!
Maranta leuconeura ‘Fascinator’.
With plenty of stunning leaves in what seems like hundreds of designs and color combinations, the prayer plant is a perfect choice for adding interest to what would otherwise be a somewhat plain office space. Place them offset from a window, and you get to see its daily etiolated leaves, giving it the Praying Hands common name.
Not only is this plant great for the quality of the air, but it will also bring in the sense of nature and its wondrous ability to improve the self-esteem of employees, making them more productive.
Calathea orbifolia is also commonly called the prayer plant. However, it differs from our previous prayer plant because it has a different vein pattern. The leaves are shinier and a bit more conventional-looking. Many of the cultivars have green leaves that enliven a space and support a productive team.
This peacock plant has been known to clear the air of office space and improve the breathing of occupants there. Include this one in your building for an air quality boost and a tropical feel.
Fittonia albivenis and Fittonia verschaffeltii.
Fittonia albivenis, known as the nerve plant due to its highly defined leaf veins, has a pretty small stature compared to some of the other plants on this list. It is known among university researchers to remove trichloroethylene, benzene, and toluene from the office air.
The nerve plant brings nature’s more interesting foliage to provide to a room, with some cultivars sporting green leaves while others look almost red due to their pervasive leaf veins. Green leaves take on the color of their veins, appearing white or pink.
The aluminum plant is great for larger planters in an indoor office space, where lush green patches offset the more plain areas of the office overall. They’re perfect for small pots on each team member’s desk too! These plants are also called watermelon plants due to their leaf patterns.
Research suggests the green leaves of the aluminum plant offer the space better air quality and a more productive space to work in. Bring them in if you want to encourage a smarter and cleaner working environment.
Rubber Tree Plant
With thick leathery leaves and multiple branching stems, the rubber tree plant brings the tropics to the office space. Potentially one of the most popular office plants for many decades, the rubber tree can remove bacteria and mold spores from any area.
Rubber trees come in cultivars with green leaves, red leaves, and shades in-between with velvety undersides. These leaves are especially suited to absorbing formaldehyde.
Both Monstera adansonii (the monkey mask plant) and Monstera deliciosa make lovely office plants that improve air quality. These green-leaved plants have exploded on the market lately due to their interesting look with swiss cheese cutouts that develop on mature leaves.
Monstera is one of the plants included in recent studies that suggest house plants can remove toxins from the surrounding air. Younger plants are great for desk corners; larger ones tend to fit well in an office corner.
Scindapsus pictus ‘Silver Lady’.
The botanical name for this plant – also known as silver pothos – is Scindapsus pictus. This small green plant has some of the most interesting silver markings on its leaves of all the plants on this list. It’s potentially one of the most effective at eliminating VOCs from the air, as it removes benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene.
Do you like palm fronds, but curly and wild? The ponytail palm, Beaucarnea recurvata, with its striking look, is perfect for removing harmful compounds from the room. It can certainly be a centerpiece in a lobby or a corner occupant in low-light environments. The curly green leaves accent any room!
Growing a Chlorophytum comosum plant is easy! The spider plant is perfect for a hanging basket in the corner of the office or along the windows of common areas. In some studies, spider plants removed 95% of the toxins present in the air. They also have a more subtle look and are really easy to propagate!
Rabbit’s Foot Fern
Need a softer, woodland feel to boost office workers’ quality of life? With its wide fronds and soft, fuzzy aerial roots, rabbits foot fern is a great choice. They work in planters, in-ground courtyard settings, or even in a small pot on a desktop. Let this fern bring a woodland feel to your work place!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the most beneficial indoor plant?
A: There are so many! Check the list above to see which are best for you.
Q: How many houseplants do you need to improve air quality?
A: Just one will have a positive impact, and a few will have triple that effect.
Q: What indoor plants are good for mental health?
A: Try a spider plant, a rubber tree plant, or even a monstera to improve air quality and in turn, mental health.
Q: Do desk plants increase productivity?
A: While studies don’t definitively say yes, they improve factors related to productivity.
Q: What plants help with productivity?
A: All of the above do! A nerve plant, ponytail palm, and even a pothos will help.
Q: Why do plants boost productivity?
A: University researchers have conducted studies showing that factors related to productivity are improved by incorporating various plants in an office space. Improving air quality increases company morale, giving employees a better sense of motivation.
Q: Do plants help you focus?
A: Yes! As mentioned in the university studies at the beginning of this piece, they positively affect factors related to better focus and motivation.