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Improve work-life with plant power

What does NASA have in in common with your office? The answer lies under our feet

Offices have a lot to answer for when it comes to our health and wellbeing. Poor heating, ventilation and air conditioning, alongside chemicals in office machinery and the ozone they emit, can cause a whole range of symptoms that are so common they even have their own term. 'sick building syndrome' describes office-lurgies, including headaches, eye irritation, sore throat, nausea, dizziness and fatigue. So, if you often feel under par at work, your office environment could be to blame.Take a leaf out of NASA’s report
Thanks to a surprising source, there is a simple and inexpensive solution to the problem. While researching the best ways to clean air in space stations, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered that certain plants are effective at removing chemicals benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene, xylene, and ammonia, which are all linked to sick building syndrome.

NASA’s Clean Air Study found that plants, including dwarf date palm, devil’s ivy, snake plant and chrysanthemum among others, were most effective in filtering chemicals in office air. The research suggests having at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

Benefits of bringing outside in 
Improving air quality is not the only way that plants can enhance your wellbeing and performance at work. Matt Aspiotis Morley is Founder of the ‘natural gym’ concept biofit and has researched extensively into the health and wellbeing benefits of bringing the outside inside.

Morley says: “From an evolutionary perspective, humans have spent the majority of their time in nature. We are cognitively in-tune with the natural world, which makes it the optimum environment for us to operate in.
“Plants help to stimulate indirect attention, as we take in details and textures like the petals of a flower or the texture of soil for example. This is very different to the type of focussed attention required when we’re staring at a computer screen. By directing our gaze towards plants, we give our brains a break. We are effectively giving ourselves the reboot we need to avoid attention-fatigue.”

The smell and colours of plants are also recognised for their influence on our moods, from reducing stress to promoting concentration. “We use different essential oils in our classes depending on what sort of session it is and the time of day,” says Morley. “If it’s a slower, more meditate evening class, we may use lavender oil to promote relaxation. Peppermint, rosemary or citrus scents have a more energising effect, on the other hand.”

Unlike other ergonomically designed office solutions, plants are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive.