We as humans have been building high-rises since the Roman times. However, until the 20th century, they didn’t become the default work space for a significant slice of the world’s workers. Even though these buildings are efficient, they can cause real health issues.
Office buildings are where we spend most of our time, but they are even worse than any apartment building out there. The cubicles in offices usually consist of partitions made of particle board and vinyl carpet, synthetic flooring, a particle board desk and plastic or synthetic office chairs, being gracefully lit by artificial lighting. The lucky some who are positioned by windows get a nice abundance of natural light. All in all, there is still poor ventilation that can still spread germs.
One of the many chemical compounds given off by synthetic office furnishings is formaldehyde. This will cause irritation to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat, and also cause allergic contact dermatitis. Visual and respiratory irritation, plus the added headache is the common symptom of exposure of formaldehyde toxins. Any other harmful chemicals in the office will be benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene, and even ammonia from cleaning products.
Indoor plants will purify the air, reducing volatile organic compounds, including formaldehyde. A NASA clean air study tested common indoor plants for the ability to filter pollutants and found many very effective at removing multiple kinds of organic compounds from the air. If you want the best results when trying to remove indoor pollutants, try one medium-sized plant per 2.2 square metre. Check for any plant with larger leaves (the more leaf surface area, the more efficient it is).
Balance of Indoor Bacteria
There are literally trillions of bacteria in high-rise offices, but only a limited amount come through open windows and air-conditioning from the outdoor environment. A large percentage of the bacteria, fungi and viruses come from carriers, such as us humans; we leave behind a microbial cloud from our skin wherever we go. The overall office environment then creates new habitats for microbial communities that may be quite foreign to human skin, resulting in it not being amazing for your health.
Beneficial bacteria on indoor plants and in their soil are an important addition to the office, stabilising the ecology of the built synthetic environment.
Plant-associated bacteria could also help to avoid outbreaks of pathogens by enhancing microbial biodiversity and balancing the complex network of the ecosystem. A wholesome balance may reduce the incidence of viral illness and the number of sick days among staff. It isn’t just the size of the plant that is important here, but the larger the pot means the more rot mass and soil surface area for helpful bacteria and root microbes to thrive.
Over the last 30 years, research has shown that green spaces promote public health and that contact with nature of any kind can shift highly stressed people to a more positive mental state. One study identified eight ways people perceive green urban spaces (described as Serene, Space, Nature, Rich in Species, Refuge, Culture, Prospect, and Social) and confirmed the importance of considering plant life when creating public places.
Offices, especially those with many people inside, poor ventilation or low natural light should also consider plants and green spaces a necessity. There are a basic few principles for a good office plant. It must be hardy and easy to maintain, and also should be capable of surviving without water for a few days on end. Many plants will actually do quite good in cubicles and spaces away from windows, so they need to be adapted to low light. It is also a good idea to avoid plants that flower extravagantly, which may cause allergic reactions.
Some of the best all-rounders across these categories are Devil’s Ivy, Bamboo Palm, Kentia Palm, Variegated Snake Plant (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue), and the Peace Lily, but there are many beautiful plants that will improve your atmosphere and mood.
So, if you’re heading back into the office anytime soon, or if you know someone who is, then stock up on these plants and be ready!
Has this informed you? Has it helped? Take one of these plants into one of our office spaces to rent across the country! Officio will help with all of you needs and enquiries, just contact us here, or if you would prefer to, then call one of our team on the number 020 3053 3882.