Pros and cons of green office space and our top 6 low-maintenance plants

Green in the office: whether it is sustainability goals, maintainability, or the health and well-being of workers, the proponents and opponents have a hard time agreeing. 

In this article, we aim to help you form an informed opinion on this subject, focusing on health and wellness and the practical side of the issue.

Ready to find out more?

Let’s embark on this leafy journey together and discover if a touch of nature can make the office healthier and happier.

children planting trees in forest

Did you know there’s a name for our love relationship with plants? It’s called ‘biophilia‘, or”a desire or tendency to commune with nature.”

Benefits and disadvantages of plants in your office space

This chapter will explore the many benefits of bringing plants into your office space, supported by solid research and real-world examples.

However, it’s not all about the greens and the serene; to offer you the whole story, I’ll also discuss the practical considerations that might be considered disadvantages.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

4 powerful benefits of a green office

While it’s common practice to place plants in our homes, knowing how they add calmness and tranquillity to our environment, bringing some to our offices is still a kind of taboo.

And that’s a pity, as plants in the office are not just decorative; they play a significant role in enhancing the workplace environment and the well-being of employees. So, let’s dive into these added benefits and see if they can persuade you.


💚 1 – Stress reduction

We’ve all had the experience of walking in the forest to clear our minds. The green outdoors is a great way to bring some calm and tranquillity back into your life, and the good news is that you can quickly bring some of that goodness into your office space.

coffee break time relax woman sitting comfortable modern office with plants

woman with dress in forest enjoying the fresh air

💚 2 – Increased office air quality

We already know plants improve your well-being. They have a positive impact on both your physical and mental health. But did you also know that, by carefully selecting the right plants, your green oasis can improve air quality and humidity?

Naturally, plants boost the oxygen levels in your office, leaving you with enhanced brain function and improved attention, focus, and concentration. This way, those sleepy office meetings could become miraculously more alert and energised.


💚 3 – Reduced noise levels & natural dividers

This benefit may surprise you. It certainly surprised me!

Plants have an impressive acoustic effect on spaces. I like my office roomy, on the minimalist side. Yet, a sparsely decorated room or office might sound hollow. It can be so bad that it makes your (phone) conversations and Zoom calls sound awkward.

Try placing a few large houseplants around the edges or in the corners of your office, and consider using plants as dividers between desks for some privacy.

According to a 1995 study by London South Bank University, the acoustic performance of plants is best in acoustically live spaces with hard surfaces, such as marble walls and stone floors, such as offices. The plants will absorb sound, reduce echoes, and help minimise distractions, leaving you with a tranquil environment.

office furniture with natural divider

excited people giving high-five while checking sales results having success with plants in office

💚 4 -Boosted productivity and creativity

The benefits of nature in the real world are well-known. Did you know that looking at plants can help your brain function differently and make you feel more relaxed, focused, and creative? A study by Human Spaces found that employees whose offices included natural elements scored 15% higher for creativity than those without.

The same goes for productivity, according to this article from the University of Exeter. This might be the best reason to turn your office space into a green oasis.


3 disadvantages of plants to consider

Of course, not all that glitter is gold. We can’t ignore the fact that there are some serious downsides to bringing plants into the office. Don’t let it stop you; read about some solid solutions. Let me explain what I mean.


🔍 1 – Pests

Pests can be quite a challenge. Let me explain what I mean. When you buy the plants, the soil or plant may be already infested. In addition, your plants may be sitting in excess water, which can attract critters such as spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and more.

Of course, with a bit of love and care, you’ll see these new inhabitants at an early stage and be able to act on it.

woman wiping leaves

woman standing ladder holding plants making call

🔍 2 – Maintenance

Some plants can be quite a handful, but if you choose your plants wisely, you’ll easily minimise this chore. Check my top 6 list of low-maintenance plants below for inspiration.

Alternatively, there are office plant care services and even subscription models. Using such a service, you can put this headache-inducing task in the capable hands of people who have made a career caring for plants. They’ll look after the plants, prune and fertilise where necessary, identify and control pests and fungal diseases, and probably be more attuned to them!


🔍 3 – Limitations of office conditions

Office buildings are not particularly known for their light and airy spaces. Consequently, it’s usually necessary to keep the artificial lighting on during the day, and that’s not ideal for plants.

Luckily, not all plants are created equal. Plenty of plants don’t mind limited light conditions. How else can they survive in forests?

It might even be your dream solution for the darker corners of your office building. With the many innovations in fluorescent and LED lighting, you can enhance the aesthetic appeal of a forgotten area in your building into a focal point where you showcase your commitment to a better climate.

Be aware that tolerance to limited lighting does not mean it can do without any light. If your office space lacks any natural light, you do need to consider adequate grow lights. Without either, even the hardiest of your plants will eventually perish.

As an added bonus, plants adapted to limited light conditions also need less water.

team of two creative entrepreneurs in dark office with plants

Top 6 low-maintenance plants for your office

Here is a selection of the 6 most popular evergreens for your artificially lit office. But don’t worry if your office is an ocean of light; they’ll still thrive. Just keep direct sunlight away from them, which goes for every plant. Even the most sun-loving plants will burn if you put them on your windowsill with full sunlight☀.


green leaves Zamioculcas

🌱 1 – The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)

The ZZ plant is a very reliable houseplant. It certainly deserves its nickname, ‘Zanzibar Gem’, as it produces smooth, naturally glossy leaves ranging from bright lime green when young to emerald green when mature.


🌱 2 – The snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)

You might know this plant, known as the snake plant, Saint George’s sword, mother-in-law’s tongue, and viper’s bowstring hem, by its previous name, Sansevieria trifasciata. The botanical name was changed in 2017.

The mature plant has dark green leaves with light grey-green cross-banding. Usually, they’re from 70–90 cm long and 5–6 cm wide, though they can reach above 2 meters in optimal conditions.

Dracaena Trifasciata snake plant

Philodendron hederaceum

🌱 3 – The heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)

This beauty is beautiful, thanks to its heart-shaped green leaves, relaxed nature, and fast-growing trailing vines. It’s incredibly low-maintenance and will enhance every office space.


🌱 4 – The Bird’s Nest fern (Asplenium Nidus)

One of my favourites, the bird’s nest fern, has large, simple leaves resembling banana leaves. It creates something of a tropical effect. They are light green, often crinkled or wavy, and rise from a central rosette. The rosette is fuzzy, where the emerging leaves resemble birds’ eggs – giving it its common name.

birds nest fern in terracotta pot

spider plant on table

🌱 5 – The Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

This is ‘the one that got away’. I can honestly say that no plant has ever survived my TLC except for this one. The plant has long, arching leaves with green and white stripes, adding a touch of elegance to your workspace.

The immensely low maintenance of this plant makes it a favourite for schools and clubhouses. For example, have you forgotten to arrange a caretaker during summer break? Don’t worry; the plant will survive. It will show you that you’re the worst creature on earth, with withered and hanging leaves. However, after you give it a nice long bath, it will resurrect and prosper like nothing happened.

And the best part? After such a period of neglect, it will rapidly produce cuttings, like tiny green spiders hanging from the pot.


🌱 6 – The Aglaonema

This Asian gem is said to bring good luck to its owner, and can’t we all use a little luck now and again? As an added bonus, the brightly coloured plant is an evergreen, usually with a crown of broad leaves, and comes in many varieties with silver and green hues.

aglaonema foliage white pot spring snow chinese evergreen

Conclusion

There was a time when we thought a minimalistic space was the summum of productivity-boosting office space. No distractions, and easy to maintain.

Fortunately, we are learning more and more about the benefits of making the office a welcoming and stimulating environment. With this change of heart, we can welcome plants back into our working lives.

At the same time, there is a wealth of research on the perceived benefits of green in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, the evidence is now firmly established.

In short, gift your staff with the benefits of a vibrant green environment, and additionally, boost your productivity and creativity. It’s a win-win for all of us!

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Angelique Hersman
Angelique Hersman
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