Over the years I’ve worked in many offices, from media companies to architects studios.
On my desk I gradually built up a jungle fortress. It started with a chilli plant, which I harvested at lunchtimes for my salad. Cue weird looks and intrigue. Then an orchid arrived followed by two peace lilies under each arm. Slowly but surely it started to catch on. Some of my colleagues even personalised their plants with name tags. They became our little green friends, whom we could call upon when a frosty email came in. We soon made it a totally immersive experience by playing bird song and forest rain sounds.
We are creatures who subconsciously yearn to be outdoors, gazing out to sea, being at the lands end, rambling through forests in the thick of it, watching the sun dappled through the trees. Yet we live and work in sterile, airless environments that stimulate nothing, we suffer from stress and physical tension.. and wonder why.
OK, so we can’t all be skipping through the forest on a daily basis, or taking in the fresh sea air, but there is one way to bring an element back into our lives that will help with physical and mental health.
Currently I’m very lucky to be living between Suffolk and London. I can choose when I want to be in the hustle and bustle of busy people, or when I want to be alone in nature with the local deer. This stark contrast has enabled me to see the effect these environments have on both my mental and physical health.
Having recently completed an office design in London Waterloo, the finishing touches consisted of plants, plants and more plants. It brought the entire concept together and created different levels of vision, drawing your eye around the room.
What’s really needed to make people feel happier at work are large windows for light, fresh air where possible and plants to maintain a calm, oxygenated atmosphere to work in. Stress levels dramatically decrease when surrounded by nature. So even a wall mural of a forest scene can tap into that happy place in our minds.
As American author Richard Louv says in his book The Nature Principle, people living in high-tech societies often suffer from what he calls “nature deficit disorder.”
More on that here: Nature deficit disorder
When I get a new plant it fills me with happiness – knowing that I can nurture and look after something which gives back with oxygen, beauty and growth. I had to leave a Mexican Fortune tree at my old flat, it pained me. So I went and bought myself another one and almost hugged it all the way home.
As the stresses of work increase and we spend more and more time in the office, it’s imperative that the environment we spend so much of our lives in, is conducive to not only productiveness but personal well-being.
Millennials are leading the way for work spaces to be fun, happy places where they wake up wanting to go to work.
“Our research shows people commissioning mental health services and social care that a holistic treatment like eco-therapy delivers not only health benefits, but wider social benefits and cost savings that medication could not,” Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said.
For the sake of around £10 per person, you can have an office filled with botanical delights; plants that suit individual’s personality and something for each person to nurture.
We were not made to live in airtight containers with little oxygen.
Rebel! Bring in a plant to work. Or if you’re too scared, plant a herb box at home and dig your fingers into the soil. Things are about to get weird and wonderful.
All photography by yours truly. For plant inspiration take a peek at my Plants board