By Bob Condor

Office PlantThe U.S. census gathers more data than strictly population. For instance, we know from federal statistics that Americans spend about 84 percent of their life indoors. Office workers, on average, spend about 52 hours in their cubicles or work spaces…Yikes.

Think about all that time in artificial light, less than optimal air conditions, germs during cold season, potential exposure to cleaning chemicals, well, you get the idea. It’s now wonder that research the majority of our country’s office workers are either not satisfied with their jobs and/or stressed out to the max.

A new study suggests there might be one way to reverse the unhappy trend: Bring in some plants to those office spaces. Or at least let workers see some green out the window.

Tina Maria Cade, associate professor of horticulture at Texas State University, surveyed individuals who worked in parts of Texas and a number of Midwestern states. What she found is that people who worked in offices with live plants or window views (not necessarily sitting by a window) reported higher job satisfaction and quality of life than respondents who didn’t do their jobs among plants and with any plants, trees or grass out their windows (if, in fact, they had windows). The findings held no matter if a worker was a boss, assistant or team member.

This study is not the first to introduce live plants or out-the-window landscapes as both healthful for individuals and productive for companies. The University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, in particular, has pioneered this line of work.

The Texas State study nonetheless is the latest reminder, though, that nature heals us if we allow. Compliments of the Daily Health Blog or DHB, here are some other research citations to explain to the boss just why there are, oh, five new plants in the office or that a lunchtime walk might be good team-building:

A 1984 study by a Texas A&M researcher who found hospital patients with courtyard rooms with views of plants and other greenery healed faster than people with less pleasant perspectives from the window. Besides shorter hospital stays, the courtyard patients received fewer negative notes on nurse reports and requested fewer pain-control drugs.

A 1990 report from a NASA environmental psychologist, Yvonne Clearwater, who showed that even simulated views of nature in a room without windows can reduce stress and relieve boredom for people in confined settings (including astronauts).

A 1993 paper by Rachel Kaplan, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, covered two experiments that recorded increased productivity by office workers who were afforded more scenic views from their windows. It concluded that simply having a window is not enough: “If all that can be seen are built elements, even if they do not obstruct the natural light or reduce access to the world beyond, the psychological benefits are not fostered. But the elements of nature that

seem to make a strong difference need not be any more than a few trees, some landscaping or some signs of vegetation.”

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors’ Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”