Keeping plants on the work desk may significantly reduce anxiety among employees who are typically removed from exposure to healthy green environments, a study claims. Researchers, including those from the University of Hyogo in Japan, explored the practical use of indoor plants to boost mental health in office workers.
They noted that in modern society, stress reduction in the workplace is a pressing issue. It has been commonly assumed that plant life is soothing for those who regularly face stressful or mundane situations. The new study, published in the journal HortTechnology, scientifically verifies the degree of psychological and physiological impact induced by indoor plants. Rather than conducting experiments in a laboratory setting, the researchers calculated stress reduction on employees in real office settings.
"At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace," said Masahiro Toyoda from the University of Hyogo. "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," Toyoda said.
The researchers investigated changes in psychological and physiological stress before and after placing a plant on the workers' desks. Sixty-three office workers in Japan were the participants of this study.
The participants were directed to take a 3-minute rest while sitting at their desks when they felt fatigue. There were two phases of the study: a control period without plants, and an intervention period when the participants were able to see and care for a small plant.
The researchers measured psychological stress in the participants using a commonly used measure called the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The ratio of the participants whose pulse rate lowered significantly after a 3-minute rest with interaction with their desk plant proved definitive.
The objective of this study was to verify the stress-reducing effect of gazing intentionally at a plant in a real office setting when a worker felt fatigue during office hours. Each plant used in the study was chosen and cared for by the worker.
Both passive and active involvement with plants in the workplace were considered for their contribution to mitigation of stress and fatigue. Participants were provided routine visual access to plants by having their choice of plant situated conveniently on their desks.
The researchers considered that intentionally gazing at the plant was an active interaction that office workers could do quickly and easily at their desks, though it did not involve any physical movement.
Participants were offered a choice of six different types of plants to keep on their desks: air plants, bonsai plants, san pedro cactus, foliage plants, kokedama, or echeveria. Each participant chose one of the six types of small indoor plants and placed it near the PC monitor on their desk. The calming effects calculated during the study showed that anxiety decreased significantly from pre- to post-intervention.The results did not skew when looking at the data within the various age groups of the workers or with different plant selections.
The researchers suggest that placing small plants within close sight contributed to psychological stress reduction across the board.