A 2011 study published in Public Health Report found that employees felt less stress when they have contact with nature. The scientists conducting the survey even broke down the types of contact with nature that seemed to have the biggest effect: they found that going outdoors and experiencing nature directly reduced stress the most, with direct contact with nature indoors coming in second. This feels correct at a gut level, and we at Cityscapes certainly have found it to be true. The question is how to landscape the company’s property for the best stress-reducing return on your investment.
Make Taking A Break Outside Appealing
The Public Health Report article recommended outdoor breaks. Another study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that access to outside areas was associated with a lower Body Mass Index (meaning employees were a healthy weight.) So, how do you make
• Give them somewhere to sit down. You can’t enjoy the view when you’re sitting in a puddle; so provide some pretty benches and tables. These don’t have to take up a lot of space and can work in any little patch of greenery.
• Put in lots of ferns and flowering plants. Lawns get dull.
• If you have a little concrete patio, put a few potted plants there.
• Create little nooks with shrubbery. This can include putting little trees in a circle by your back door or installing few flower beds in a corner. This will provide a sense of safety and privacy while people take their lunch break.
Improve The View From The Office Window
While the Public Health Report definitely felt that directly contacting nature was best, it also found that being able to see nature from your office window had positive effects, and other studies have confirmed this. This conclusion makes sense, as people spend a lot of time looking out windows when they are at work. If viewing nature is restful, putting a little nature outside the window provides employees with plenty of rest.
So, when your landscaping company comes in to help you landscape your property, ask them how the grounds will look from inside. They might decide to put in trees that will reach the second story or something similar. At the least, you can put potted plants on windowsills. Other things that might be tried are:
• Planting trees that attract wildlife. There are few things funner than watching squirrels at play.
• Planting tall things at the back of the property so people on the top floors will get a nice view.
Encourage Walking With Inviting Paths
The Working Healthy Project found that simple modifications to the working environment changed employee behavior, and one modification they made was to put a red line in workplace cafeterias to encourage people to walk to the fruits and vegetables in the buffet table. You can take this principle to outdoor spaces by creating paths in your lawns. These paths can be made of gravel or flagstones, and you can line them with flowers. People will want to stroll in the beautiful surroundings on their lunch breaks, which will provide the psychological rest and physical exercise that rejuvenates your average employee according to many studies.
Other ways to encourage strolling through your garden is to:
• Put the picnic benches at the back of the property so people will be motivated to walk.
• Paint arrows on your path, just like in the cafeteria experiment.
• Plant shade trees on the side of the path to make walking comfortable on hot days.
• Find colorful gravel that will look fun to walk on.
As you can see, a few simple tweaks to your corporate landscape can improve employee health and wellness. It only takes a little thought to create a design that will maximize these benefits too, so why not give it a try?