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Why plants on workdesks boost creativity by 15%

This productivity hack comes from the book 59 seconds. It is a very uncommon self-help book, as all advice in it is scientifically backed up by peer-reviewed papers. One particular idea from the “Creativity” chapter has especially intrigued me.

It turns out that plants and trees have a very powerful impact on humans.

The author writes: “Recovery rates of patients in hospitals are significantly increased when they can see trees out of their ward windows, and prisoners whose cell windows overlook farmland and forests report fewer medical problems than others.”

So, the eco-terrorists were right all along! :-)

The same positive effect applies to crime rates (anti-social behavior): Researches found that shrubs and trees in urban areas can reduce criminality by 50%.

But most interestingly, plants make people more creative. Numerous studies have confirmed, again and again, that plants in office environment increase creativity.

The book states: “Eight-month study by Robert Ulrich from Texas A&M University showed that adding flowers and plants to an office resulted in 15 per cent increase in ideas from male emlployees, and more flexible solutions to problems from their female counterparts.” Similar effect applies to children.

Why does it work? The book says: “According to some theorists, the explanation dates back thousands of years. Evolutionary psychologists attempt to explain behavior on the basis of how it might have helped people thrive and survive through generations. In their opinion, being confronted with healthy trees and plants might initiate an ancient feeling of calm because it suggests there will be an abundance of nearby food, which eases the worry about where the next meal is coming from. Such pleasant feelings then make people more helpful, happy, and creative.”

Flowers! Weeds! Trees! It’s all good!

Amazingly, this applies even to colors. Green color can boost productivity and innovation, while red color decreases it. Use red text very carefully. Also be wary of red decorations.

So what is exactly the 15% creativity “weed hack”? (No, not that kind of weed.) Put a green plant on your desk, and make sure you can see it. If you want to make the effect even more powerful, decorate your office with green colors, and avoid red colors. And it’s best if you can see some trees through your window. And beware the similar 150% creativity “weed hack” (Yes, that kind of weed.)

I’m curious — does fruit have similar effects? And how about greenery + fruit? Too bad I’m not a scientist.

For starters, I’ve set my wallpaper to a picture of a lovely garden with baskets of ripe apples. It might even subtly influence me to buy and eat more fruit, which is always a good thing.

Oh yes, and I’ve also removed a red chocolate box from my desk, that has been sitting there for a long time. I was saving the last piece of the chocolate… but now I just had the perfect reason to eat it, backed by peer-reviewed research.

The book has persuaded me, as the evidence presented is overwhelming. We are definitely going to get some plants for our office this week, at least one for each desk. I’m really looking forward to it.

We used to think we are smart for not having any plants in our office, so we can save the hassle of watering them, but it’s just not worth it. Taking care of the plants is a little price for the long-term benefits.

By the way, we’ve just launched new web comics for developers, geeks, and startup slaves. Strip 15 is about this post: Component Owl’s Comics

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  • peter

    your mention of fruit is interesting
    why do you see lavish roman sets adorned
    with large bowls of fruit

  • Libor Tinka

    We should visit a flower shop some day to make our office alive :-)

    I think whether a brown rat or snake/lizard in a lovely terrarium/vivarium with tropical plants can do the same job.