The UK has amped up its plans to reduce the spread of coronavirus, with schools and offices across the country closing indefinitely, public transport closing, and working from home advised wherever possible.
With no sign of these measures abating before August, we can expect to see a lot of the same four walls for the coming months - by which time the novelty of working in pyjama bottoms may have worn off ...
If you have to move indoors, taking a piece of the outside with you could be the trick to keeping sane and productive: as well as making our homes look and feel nice, houseplants are thought to improve attention span, concentration levels and creativity.
In studies using test scores and worker output as markers, environments with indoor plants correlate with increased productivity (Nieuwenhuis et al., 2014) and fewer sick days (Elzeyadi, 2011).
Read on for our recommendations on the best plants to work from home, based on current research.
Best plants for productivity
Although all natural forms are associated with increased productivity, certain elements produce the strongest response because of the way humans have adapted.
For example, evolutionary psychologists have deduced that plants reminiscent of our ancestral home on the Savannah are the best at reducing the body's response to stress - these include plants top-heavy plants, or those with overhanging canopies, such as the Strelizia regina.
Separately, we benefit from environments which are rich with diverse and dense plant life and to the colour green (because they signalled a healthy and fruitful environment to our ancestors).
For this we recommend quick-growing jungly plants, like Monsteras and Pothos plants.
Plants that help us relax and focus
Studies show that the human eye is particularly attuned to deal with fractal patterns of a certain dimensional range (Wise and Taylor 2002).
Fractal patterns are continuous patterns that could repeat infinitely - you’ve probably seen them in contemporary art paintings (they’re the ones that make you feel dizzy!). But it’s the fractal patterns found in nature that have a positive effect on our attention span.
A paper published in the Journal of Life Sciences concluded, after clinical trials, that fractal patterns in nature induce an ‘alpha response’: a relaxed yet wakeful state (Hagerhall et al., 2015).
In essence, when we’re in this state, our minds get relief from the overstimulating effects of laptops and blue screen tech and allow us to focus on specific tasks. Plants with fractal patterns include many calatheas, with the Orbifolia being a prime example, as well as the Spiral Cactus and Echeverias.
Plants to boost cognition and creativity
Following an eight month study, Robert Ulrich found that adding plants to an office environment resulted in a 15% increase in flexible solutions to problems from females within the office and a 15% increase in new ideas from male employees.
Gender differences aside, the results of Ulrich’s study are pretty persuasive. So, if you think you’re going to use your quarantine time to write that novel or screenplay, some greenery might be the answer.
If you’re new to plants, or want to give your current collection a boost, consider an easy-care mature plant, like our extra large Rhapis excelsa.
Plants that make you feel less claustrophobic
Working from home might seem like a cosy treat at first, but pretty quickly those same four walls can become constricting.
To make your interior feel more open, consider trailing plants which can be trained to climb with plant supports.
We recommend a Red Rhipsalis for hanging and a Philondren squamiferum, which have a broad, open growth habit.
As well as being good for productivity, being immersed in nature helps support our immune systems! Shop our immune boosting collection here.
Elzeyadi, Ihab M. K.. (2011). “Daylighting-Bias and Biophilia : Quantifying the Impact of Daylighting on Occupants Health.”
Hägerhäll, Caroline & Laike, Thorbjörn & Kuller, M & Marcheschi, Elizabeth & Boydston, C & Taylor, Richard. (2015). Human Physiological Benefits of Viewing Nature: EEG Responses to Exact and Statistical Fractal Patterns. Nonlinear dynamics, psychology, and life sciences. 19. 1-12.
Nieuwenhuis, M., Knight, C., Postmes, T., & Haslam, S. A. (2014). The relative benefits of green versus lean office space: Three field experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 20(3), 199–214.
Wise, J. A. and Taylor, R. P. (2002) ‘Fractal Design Strategies for Enhancement of Knowledge Work Environments’, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 46(9), pp. 854–858.
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