Why You Should Have A Plant On Your Desk, According To Science

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
Bright Office Desk with Laptop, Papers, and Plants

Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy

If you're looking to reduce your stress levels at work, there may be a simple (and aesthetically pleasing) solution: Get yourself a plant.

A recent study found that adding a plant to a worker's desk reduced overall stress level. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Hyogo in Japan and was published in HortTechnology, a journal from the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Stress levels were measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, which is often used in clinical settings and helps differentiate anxiety from other forms of stress. They also had participants measure their pulse as an indicator of stress.

This study wanted to examine how their theory would apply in an actual office setting and so designed their research to be done in a corporate office rather than a lab. And while it was a small study, the researchers say their findings are definitive.

"At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace," said Masahiro Toyoda, Ph.D., the lead author on the study. "To ameliorate such situations, we decided it essential to verify and provide scientific evidence for the stress restorative effect by nearby plants in a real office setting."

Participants in the study were told to take a three-minute break whenever they felt fatigued at work. The researchers measured stress levels before adding a plant to the desk for a control stress level, and then after to see how the small addition would affect workers.

They found that 27% of those tested saw a significant decrease in pulse rate, while 58.7% saw a less significant change. The results also indicate that the secondary benefits of adding plants to the desk included things like a more organized workspace overall and opportunities to speak with co-workers about the plants.

In the tests, workers were allowed to select a plant and were either passively engaged with it, by simply having it in their line of vision, or actively engaged with it, by taking care of it, during those rest periods.

The desk workers were allowed to choose from six different types plants: air plants, bonsai plants, San Pedro cactus, foliage plants, Kokedama, or echeveria, to add to their desk near their computer monitor. The researchers advised that companies may want to look into more plants in the office as an affordable way to improve office conditions.

We've heard before that natural elements can help improve mental serenity, and with this new evidence that it'll actually calm us down, we're hitting the florist ASAP. If you're not sure which plant you should look for, you can always turn to your zodiac sign for help. And if you're worried about killing your new desk-mate, check out these low-maintenance plants (and good luck!).

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