Choosing Plants For Your Office

Jo Horbury

Investing in some greenery is a simple and often overlooked design ‘overhaul’ to breathe new life into your office space. But it’s not just the aesthetic difference they make. Bringing nature indoors (so called ‘biophilic design’) has huge positive impacts on your employees. Check out some of the spaces we create to see the green elements we often bring in!

Just three of many benefits to having plants in your office include:

Increased Productivity:

Though the ‘lean’ office approach had been touted as the best way to productively manage both budgets and people, there is no real proof for improved productivity or positivity in lean environments (those stripped of plants, personal effects, food etc). This 2010 study compared ‘lean’ and ‘green’ spaces, and found that enriched, green spaces create superior levels of organisational identification, well-being, and productivity (ranging from attention to detail to information processing and management). The effect was heightened when the employees themselves were allowed a hand in the design. Why not, for example, let employees choose the plant for their desk?

Boosted happiness, boosted returns

In built environments with a strongly ‘biophilic’ design (biophilia meaning love of nature), employees report a 15% higher level of wellbeing, are 6% more productive and 15% more creative, this article states. In Terrapin’s “The Economics of Biophilia” report, they illustrate documented proof of reduced illness and workplace absenteeism and improved staff retention too in these green-forward environments.

Better air

You thought you were most exposed to pollution during your commute, right? Actually, it turns out that air pollution is almost always worse inside (even in traffic-heavy cities!). This EPA report from 2018 suggests that levels of some air pollutants can be 2-5 times higher indoors.

Ok, so air cleansing through plants is actually less achievable than it sounds. It’s much better to use mechanical air filtration than to rely on plant matter to clean up your air (which is often made toxic through everything from cleaning products to carpets). 

The studies which show that plants remove toxins such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) were mostly conducted in a very small area, so to have an impact on reduced airborne toxins you may need something equivalent to a green wall in the office. Plants do release oxygen in the daytime through photosynthesis though, bettering oxygen to carbon dioxide ratios, and have a proven positive effect on employees’ mental health.

The Best Plants for Your Office: Some of Our Favourites

African Violet

These cheerful little plants with bright, smiling faces are decidedly 70s – in a good way. They do need light, but aren’t fussy about where it comes from – your fluorescent desk lamp will do! They take up only a tiny amount of space, so there’s room on every desk for an African Violet.

Air Plants

Air Plants are a great way to bring green into a design – think of using a tiny terrarium on the desk, for example. They allow for more stylish touches, whilst maintaining the positive effects of biophilic design. They don’t even need soil, just dunk them in water once a week. Clean, tidy – perfect for your desk.


Ivy has beautiful leaves and an organic, flowing shape which really feels like bringing the outdoors in, softening the hard angles of an office environment. There are many different varietals, and choosing a variegated colour or leaf shape can make the plant seem very special indeed. It needs medium light, and average water – overall, it’s a pretty easy-going character. If you keep it happy it will trail, which can lead to a gorgeously festooned table leg, or shelf!

Asparagus Fern

If you’re not into the kitsch classics (from Cacti to Succulents to African Violets), why not go for the gentle fronds and organic shapes of an Asparagus Fern? They love dappled shade, so being a little further from the window isn’t a problem, though they do like it humid, so if your office often feels dry, water them by regularly misting the air around them.

Biophilic design is something for every office owner to consider – whether as a low-cost pick-me-up solution or as part of a grand-scale office redesign. If you want some expert advice, get in touch today!