Office ergonomics, understood as a study aimed at humanizing work, so that it is being performed at lowest possible cost and at the highest efficiency, is becoming an ever more popular term. One important factor influencing correct ergonomic is the environment, which is conditioning good well-being in a work place. Unfortunately, the air in many office buildings is stale and polluted. Such conditions make the employees ill or vexed, which in turn transfers into lower work efficiency. Even though it doesn't have to be like that.
Sick building syndrome
World Health Organization (WHO) has distinguished Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), which can apply to as many as 30% of modern office buildings on the world. Especially thos buildings, whose internal atmosphere depends from air conditioning, heating or sometimes ineffective ventilation. WHO singled out 50 symptoms related to SBS, including: problems with concentration, exhaustion, unjustified crying, depression, asthma, illnesses with similar symptoms to pneumonia or bronchitis. These ailments in turn result in employees' absence, lower work efficiency or lack of satisfaction. The main causes for this occurrence are:
- toxins floating in the air, coming from e.g. Carpets, furniture, lighting, cleaning products
- fungal spores, mainly mold's, present in buildings' air, which are the cause of many allergies
- pollution coming from air conditioning
- inadequate ventilation and heating system
- wrong room acoustics
That is why, in order to combat this phenomenon, in many offices a special attention is being paid to choosing plants. NASA scientists have conducted research in order to determine the ability of plants to absorb toxins pervasive in offices, that is trichlorethylene, formaldehyde and benzene. What’s interesting, is that most of plants used in office interiors has the ability to absorb at least one of these toxins. That is not the only known property of plants. Researchers of Sydney University of Technology proved, that pot plants reduce volatile organic compounds, such as alkanol and aldehydes, which are present i.a. in construction materials or interior equipment materials. High concentration of these compounds cause ailments like conjunctivitis, exhaustion, impaired concentration.
Plants increase air humidity, improving room's atmosphere. They also absorb dust – leaves attract motes from air, soaking in the toxins at the same time. According to the scientist's findings, in order to effectively clean the air of a 140 sq m office, 15 – 20 plants need to be placed in it.
Results of numerous studies show, that plants have the ability to reduce stress in people. In turn, lower level of stress results in better efficiency at work. Thanks to plants' presence, a building's interior becomes more of a cozy place. Plants increase concentration, while at the same time contributing to the improvement of employees' well-being. They can also help in reduction of noise, there is a commotion with an intensity of 50 decibels in an office, and plants can lower that by as much as 5 units.
Plants are a part of decor, they increase aesthetic value of a work room. Their correct selection is very important. That is why it is worth to take advantage of specialists' advice or try to get in touch with the latest trends on your own. Unfortunately, in many companies the only decorative element is a cactus standing on the windowsill (it is especially visible in public offices). Yet thanks to plants an interior can look attractive! This, in turn, consists of several factors. First of all, plants' species, size and shape need to fit the interior in which they'll be placed. Everything counts here: colour of the walls, shape and color of furniture or the office space itself as well as in what style the work place has been designed.
Plants with dark green leaves look good in most rooms. Dracaena fit modern offices, while Schefflera is more appropriate for stylish places. Palm, ferns and succulents all belong to a group of especially recommended plants for offices. Aomong palms the most impressive is probably the coral one, but Australian Livistona and Canarian Date-palm look good as well. The least demanding among ferns are Nephrolepis and Asplenium. Apart from that it should be noted, that ferns negatively ionize air, thanks to which they have a positive influence on people. They also reduce electrostatic discharges, which is exceptionally important in rooms, where one works on a computer. Among ficuses the most beautiful one is certainly benjamina, but Ficus elastica, iyrata and pumila also do well in an office. Specialists also recommend Peperomia and Philodendrons.
It's also fashionable to place two identical plants in close vicinity to each others in same pots. A single plant in an interesting pot with a ceramic or glass element also looks quite nice on a windowsill. During the choice of plants we should pay attention not to pick a species requiring difficult and often treatments. For rooms occupied by many people it's best not to pick plants with a long flowering period and which emit intensive scent, e.g. Lilies, orchids, hyacinths.
Apart from making the right choice of plants, it's worth to pay attention to pots or vases. An interesting and innovative solution are the self-watering pots, which need to be filled with water once a week and the plant is going to take the necessary amount of water through a special twine.