Living walls sap stress and sow seeds of happiness at work

living wallsSomething for the weekend: A pilot experiment by Finnish indoor nature technology business Naava has revealed that performing stress-inducing cognitive tasks while surrounded by living plant walls resulted in 43% fewer mistakes than in a normal room, while also sowing the seeds of healthier, happier and more productive workplaces.

The study consisted of 12 participants performing hand-written, cognitive word association tests across two days. These were performed in a room with biophilic, air-purifying green walls on one day and in a room with no plant life on the other. Participants made 28 mistakes on average without the living walls, and 12 mistakes on average in the green-walled environment.

Those in the green surroundings also presented increased levels of the happiness hormone oxytocin, and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Low oxytocin levels can be seen in people suffering from depression and anxiety, whereas increased cortisol levels are associated with reduced attention and focus.

According to Naava, biophilic design and indoor air quality are significant factors in work-related performance, and employee health and wellbeing. Incorporating this in the workplace could help employers create environments that contribute towards a better bottom line through increased productivity and reduced absenteeism, and could also be a way to attract workers back to the office.

Aki Soudunsaari, co-founder at Naava, said: “Most workplaces today are entirely uninspiring at best and at worst, they are actually detrimental to our health. They bombard our senses with stress-inducing stimuli like unnatural lighting and artificially sterilised air; we’re starved of the therapeutic effects of nature that we as humans are genetically programmed to thrive in.

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“Plants have been a sign of food, water and shelter and therefore indicate a safe environment. This allows our minds to rest when we see nature around us: it has an unconscious effect on our attention, enabling us to concentrate on the task instead of being alert to the environment.”

Here at Employee Benefits, we can imagine swapping our signature pink for something a little more leafy, if it means nurturing the growth of happiness and productivity!