Managing stress — let alone stress at work — is a constant struggle.
There are many factors as to why American workers are stressed at work and some of the most stressed people in the world. For more than 90% of Americans, stress at work comes from unstable team dynamics. Sometimes it could be dealing with an annoying coworker or disagreements due to work management. Working with a team diminishes individual control, which creates helplessness and unhealthy stress due to a lack of control on projects and in our careers.
Jobs, especially high-stress ones, could even have an influence on your health. One Swedish study found that having a long-term stressful job tends to cause more women to gain weight than men.
Certainly, there are little hacks that can help workers handle stress better at work. But have you ever tried getting yourself a desk plant?
Researchers from Japan found that keeping a small plant on your desk and occasionally glancing at it for a few minutes can help reduce workplace stress. The study, published in the HortTechnology journal, searched to find out how indoor plants can boost mental health. They found that there were several psychological and physiological impacts induced by plants in the office.
“At present, not so many people fully understand and utilize the benefit of stress recovery brought by plants in the workplace,” said lead author Dr. Masahiro Tooda of the University of Hyogoin in a press release. 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.”
The researchers measured stress levels by observing workers’ stress levels before and after a plant was placed at their work stations. In total, 63 office workers in Japan were part of the study, which included having participants take three-minute rests while sitting at their desks. Whenever the participants felt tired they were tasked with taking care of their desk plant.
The study was conducted in two phases. The first was a control period without plants and the second phase allowed participants to view and care for a small plant. Researchers measured the participants’ stress through the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, which is a method used to measure anxiety in adults. The types of plants that participants were offered to keep at their desks were air plants, bonsai plants, san pedro cactus, foliage plants, kokedama, or echeveria, according to researchers. Each participant was able to choose one before placing it near their computers on their desk.
The results found that about 27% of participants had decreased pulse rates at the end of the plant interaction and their anxiety scores decreased as well.
Why did stress-levels drop? Researchers said a desk plant “provided the opportunity for soft fascination in the office environment,” which means it helped participants find a healthy and restorative distraction while at work. It’s essentially the same sensation we experience when in nature.
While desk plants can relieve some stress, past research found that desk plants can also increase productivity by as much as 15%.
Ladders spoke to plant experts to layout a helpful guide on which plant is right for your office space.