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Mental health is an issue impacting workplaces across Canada. As companies work to break down the stigma surrounding mental health, they’re also looking for ways to fight against it.

HR knows that employee’s benefit from a healthy work environment—one focused on employee engagement, productivity, satisfaction and happiness. Producing a psychologically healthy work space reduces absenteeism, health costs, workplace injuries and more.

It may seem overly simplistic, but one step companies can take to positively impact employee mental health is to bring plants into the office space.

The Biophilia Hypothesis

The biophilia hypothesis (BET) suggests that humans have an inborn desire to connect to and engage with nature. It’s through this theory that many environmental psychologists advocate the importance of plants in indoor spaces.

Biophilic design is a concept used in the architectural industry that aims to increase people’s connectivity with nature by incorporating plants into indoor spaces (among other things).

Biophilic design is known to benefit building occupants’ mental, environmental and economic health.

Clean the Air

Mold, asbestos, carbon monoxide, radon and formaldehyde are only a few of the most common air pollutants that can be found in offices across Canada. These air pollutants have no problem finding their way into your work space, but can’t seem to figure out how to leave it.

Long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants can lead to breathing issues, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis, migraines and asthma. In turn, these illnesses can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, negatively impacting employee’s mental health.

Adding plants to your work space improves air quality by removing around 87% of pollutants in the air.

Increase Productivity

In 2014, the Journal of Experimental Psychology researched the benefits of plants in the workplace. This study found that plants and greenery improved employee productivity by 15%.  

The study, which was led by Dr. Chris Knight, and explored workplaces around Europe over a ten-year period, also determined one plant per square meter improved employee memory retention.

Reduce Stress, Sickness and Absenteeism

Colour psychology—the idea that colours can induce certain psychological reactions—believes seeing the colour green can relieve stress and anxiety, positively benefiting our mental health.

Studies have shown that plants can help reduce stress and anxiety. Plants can positively affect electrical activity in the brain, heart activity and even muscle tension.

There’s even speculation that plants can help fight against Sick Building Syndrome—a condition that effects office workers, causing headaches and breathing problems.

Enhance Creativity

Have you ever noticed how good you feel after going for a quick ten-minute walk outside? The way the fresh air and sunlight, combined with grass and trees makes you feel energized? Awake? Positive?

There’s a name for that feeling: Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART). This theory posits that engaging with nature in one way or another can help restore mental fatigue and strengthen mental health, and in doing so, helps re-energize creative juices.

The Best Plants for Your Office

Not all plants can thrive indoors. When incorporating greenery into the workplace you’ll want to ensure the plants you use will survive in the space. Succulents (Jade, Aloe Vera, etc.) are always a top choice because they’re able to store water for longer periods of time. Using low-light plants can also help keep plants alive and flourishing.

Regardless, knowing the positive benefits plants can have on employee mental health surely makes incorporating them into your office space a no brainer. 

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Debbie Russell

Debbie Russell

Debbie is the assistant vice president in the Calgary office of GroupQuest Benefits Resources Inc., partnering with Group Insurance Advisors to support and help grow their employee benefits businesses. Debbie has over 30 years’ experience in the insurance industry. She understands building relationships is what drives this business. She holds the Certified Health Insurance Specialist (CHS) and Group Benefits Associate (GBA) designations and is a member of Advocis. On a more personal note, Debbie enjoys good food, good wine, and having a good time with family and friends. She loves golfing, camping, hiking and travelling.