The humble office pot plant, previously much maligned and neglected, has made a comeback, not because of an increase in enthusiasm for office horticulture, but because research has shown that having contact with nature is good for our mood, boosts our attention, lowers stress and increases productivity.
Going green is good for business.
Ten years ago, statistics revealed one in five adult Australians to be at risk of developing a mental illness in any 12 months. Today, the level of corporate stress is such that over three million Australians are battling high levels of stress, anxiety and or depression.
Many workplace health and wellbeing programs have focused on boosting mental health with discounted gym memberships, lunchtime massages and encouraging staff to take their vacations when due, but workplace design that considers the availability of natural light and access to nature also has an important role to play.
While getting away for a short weekend break to spend time in a green space is a great way to refresh and re-energize, these are often too sporadic to be of sufficient benefit to maintain a positive mood and minimize the risk of burnout or stress-related illness.
Going green is good because:
Greenery restores attention.
Working in front of a computer screen for long periods exhausts the brain, increases the perception of time passing too quickly and heightens stress.
Regularly spending an hour walking and interacting with nature has been found to boost attention by 15% and memory by up to 20%.
That’s why taking time out to go for a walk outside or moving to space where there is visible greenery helps to restore attention, improve problem-solving, increase creativity and assist in overcoming attention fatigue.
In addition, studies have shown that looking out of the window onto a green space (whether a tree-lined street or a green city roof), or looking at the pot plant on your desk for 40 seconds is sufficient to restore attention.
Even if the pot plant isn’t on your desk, having it in your peripheral vision will be of benefit.
Nature lowers stress and cortisol levels
Twenty minutes in nature is enough to lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. Taking a walk through a park rather than an urban setting boosts mood by reducing rumination (negative self-talk) while the incidental exercise enhances the release of mood-enhancing hormones dopamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Even watching a green screen works to lower your blood pressure and heart rate which explains why so many dentists have you watching those National Geographic videos while sitting in the dental chair.
Going green boost positive emotions.
When in a beautiful place, we become more mindful of our surroundings and appreciative for what we have. A sense of wonderment and awe lifts our spirits and we feel more inspired. Practicing gratitude has been shown to boost optimism and confidence.
Nature makes us feel safe.
Spending time in a green space enhances the feeling of refuge, allowing us to think quietly, more deeply and reflectively. Calming the mind in this way opens us up to possibility thinking, ready to consider all options, solve problems more easily, and increase our resilience and adaptability.
It enables us to switch off.
One of the biggest challenges in the modern workplace, especially for those identified as top performers and future leaders is knowing how to switch off.
Operating in a global village where the expectation is to always be available, where we allow our digital technology to determine when we disconnect is leading to higher levels of brownout or presenteeism, the step before burnout.
That’s why taking time out away from the office and stepping into nature helps us to reconnect with our values, nurtures relationships and contributes to good physical, mental and cognitive health.
Connecting with nature makes us feel more alive, more creative and happier. The COGfx study found that US ‘green-certified’ offices enjoy a 26% increase in cognition and a 33% reduction in absenteeism.
If the consistency of performance and finding greater joy in your work is important to you and your business, it’s time to green up for greater wellbeing and productivity.