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As the weeks of lockdown merge into months, many of us who’ve been working from home (WFH) can relate to the feeling that the novelty is wearing thin.

But with no immediate end in sight to WFH, staying productive and keeping mentally well are priorities and that’s where improving the domestic working environment with plants is worth considering.

Houseplants are having a fashionable moment but beyond being good to look at, their ability to help us stay focussed and refreshed in our workplaces has been underlined by various pieces of research.

One study placed two groups of workers in an identical office setting, except one group had flowering houseplants, while the other group didn’t. Measuring their attention to tasks, it was found the group with plants improved their performance when doing a demanding cognitive job, whereas those without plants did not.

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Tackling mental fatigue

Environmental psychology, notably Attention Restoration Theory, offers insights into the benefits of plants for human wellbeing, according to Damien Newman, Thrive’s Training, Education and Consultancy Manager.

‘Work, such as creating budgets or writing reports, requires our directed attention of which we have a limited supply and when it runs out, we become mentally tired,’ said Damien.

‘Scenes of plants and nature are restorative and help us overcome mental fatigue, enabling us to resume tasks that require directed attention.

‘A key part of Attention Restoration Theory is the idea of being away, where a setting offers a psychological change of scene and having plants in our work environment offers that. Looking at plants also provides an element of fascination that requires little mental effort, where the mind wanders and opens to reflection.’

Looking after plants can connect us to an inner desire to nurture and care. Damien added: ‘Nurturing plants is purposeful and gives us a sense of control. As well as connecting with natural cycles that are bigger than ourselves, it’s an investment in the future that gives us hope.’

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Stress-busting

Having plants on your desk can combat stress too.

A Japanese study found that three-minute breaks to look at a small plant when fatigued helped reduce stress among office workers. Each plant used in the study, ranging from cacti to succulents, was chosen and cared for by the worker.

The study concluded that if employers encouraged staff to have such nature breaks, the mental wellbeing of their workforce would improve.

As well as bringing nature indoors, plants do a great job at improving the look and feel of our lifeless home working spaces, offering texture, shape, colour and even fragrance.

So why not invest a few quid in some green companions? They could pay dividends in how you feel about working from home.

5 plants for home working:

Aloe vera – extremely adaptable and easy to grow succulent

Asparagus fern – a plant to touch; has a wonderful lacy texture

Rubber plant – striking plant with thick, rubber-looking leaves

Spider plant – easy to look after, tough as old boots, houseplant favourite

Zamioculcas (ZZ) plant – striking foliage and can cope with little water

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