Guest blog by Kenneth Freeman Head of Innovation, Ambius

With UK unemployment at a seven-year low , and with research revealing almost half of employees would change job for a better working environment , companies are constantly having to look at ways to retain and recruit staff by improving workplace wellbeing. One way to do this is to create a more engaging working environment by enriching the physical office surroundings.


Ambius, a leading expert in workspace design, recently took part in a study led by the Universities of Cardiff, Exeter, Queensland and Groningen, which showed that offices enriched with interior landscaping can make staff happier and more productive compared with an office devoid of greenery. Its “Green vs Lean” report revealed that introducing plants in the work environment can increase workplace satisfaction by up to 40% .

Creating the feel of nature indoors

Bringing nature to work doesn’t have to be complex to add value.

Introducing indoor planting is a simple and effective way of bringing nature into offices. A naturalistic style of interior planting can reflect the freedom and randomness of nature better than serried ranks of identical plants, in identical containers, placed at regular intervals around a workspace. A connection with the outside can also be achieved by blurring the boundary between inside and outside. With interior landscaping, a designer can draw the eye to the outside world, for example, by positioning plants near windows or by drawing attention to landscape features beyond the glass.  It is also a great way to combat sick building syndrome.

Sick Building Syndrome

Sick building syndrome (SBS) describes a situation whereby people experience symptoms of ill health that seem to be linked to spending time in a building but where no specific cause can be identified.

office-plant-bowl-planterThe term building-related illness (BRI) refers to recognised diseases, often infections (eg, Legionnaires’ disease), caused by being in a building. The cause of SBS is thought to be at least in part due to changes in building and ventilation design triggered by the energy crisis in the 1970s, and creates a multitude of symptoms, not least debilitating tiredness that starts within a few hours of arriving at work and improves within minutes of leaving the building.  Symptoms may be worse in the winter months in northern climates.  Other symptoms include

  • Headaches and dizziness; headaches are usually non-migrainous, rarely throbbing, and usually described as dull and often as a pressure on the head.[6]
  • Loss of concentration.
  • Eye problems.
  • Skin problems – eg, dry or itchy skin.
  • Nausea.
  • Coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing.
  • Ear, nose or throat irritation.[7]

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that if a number of your staff report these symptoms, employers should:

  • Carry out an employee survey to establish how many staff are affected
  • Check the general cleanliness of the building, the state of all cleaning machinery (eg, vacuum cleaners) and the usage and storage of cleaning materials.
  • Check the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.
  • After any initial steps to resolve the problem have been implemented, it may be necessary to repeat the employee survey and carry out a more detailed assessment of the workplace environment – however just the small step of adding plants can bring massive dividends.

How plants can help 

Apart from the fact that having plants around us is an increasingly well-understood way of improving our wellbeing, it appears that they could also be useful allies in the fight against sick building syndrome and helping staff wellbeing in general.

Research has consistently shown that when offices have plants, reports of symptoms associated with Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) frequently fall – often quite dramatically. In addition plants in offices have been shown to:

• Reduce blood pressure (lowered by 1 – 4 units)
• Reduce complaints about fatigue by as much as 30%
• Reduce coughing by up to 40%
• Reduce complaints of dry skin by 25%

plant-in-handThis, and other research, demonstrates how a greener office environment can improve wellbeing, improve staff engagement and reduce the impact of any building-related issues.

Now, more than ever, businesses need to keep their staff happy and engaged. Improving the office environment through the use of plants is a simple and cost-effective way to do this.

Ambius is the world’s largest provider of plants, replica foliage and flowers for commercial environments. Ambius also offers a broad range of products and services including ambient scenting, and artwork which can help improve employee productivity, reduce absenteeism and boost wellbeing in the workplace. Find out more at

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