Everything Grows came across this great TED Talk on “Why Every Desk At Your Office Needs a Plant” and how plants improve employee productivity.
Such an idea had never occurred to engineer Mike Robinson. He owns a small company based in British Columbia, Canada, that designs and builds windbreaks and other control structures. One day, his wife, Suzanne, who runs the company with him, said: “I think we should give every person in the office a plant for their desk.”
Robinson was skeptical. He thought that plants would be distracting and a drain on people’s time. “The average staff member would probably spend about five minutes a day either looking after the plant or admiring it,” as he puts it in a TEDxWhiteRock talk. Upon his wife’s insistence, however, he agreed to give it a try.
He and Suzanne bought 20 plants for their 20 employees. Then, they did something a bit different. Instead of handing them out, they asked each employee to approach the tableful of plants and choose their own – but from the perspective of the plant.
Think of it like a human-plant speed-date. Robinson explains, “So you have to put yourself in the spot of the plant, as it were, and say, ‘Which person do I want to be my new friend?'” Employees then received a small sign on which they wrote ‘My friend is …’ and their own name, stuck it in the soil, and brought it into their personal workspace.
Over time, Robinson realized that the plants were having a positive impact. He says, “I did my own mathematics, and I reckoned that we might be doing about 30 percent more business per staff [member].” Of course, this is far from a scientific study. There’s no control group or double-blind – just a company filled with happy plant lovers excelling at their jobs. And maybe that’s enough.
Another sign that something is going right: After 5 years, not a single plant has died. Robinson guesses that since each was hand-selected and bears the employee’s name on the label, they’re well-tended because “this is your friend and you care about your friend.” As he explains, “Our office is a more contented place, a relaxed place, and a place that I’m proud to be to be a part of, and a big part of that is the personal plant.”
But what plant is right for your desk? Perhaps you’ve gotten one and felt the warm glow of human-plant friendship – only to see it wither before your eyes. We asked Rebecca Bullene, New York City horticulturist, cofounder of Greenery Unlimited and the person who designed and tends the greenery at the TED NYC offices, to recommend hardy plants for different light conditions. Note: Almost all of these plants are available in desktop sizes, but if you want them to stay that way, you will need to prune them.