I'll never forget the first houseplant I acquired as an adult, a gorgeous and leafy fiddle-leaf fig. I had recently moved into my first solo apartment in Silverlake, California and a friend brought it over as a housewarming gift (thank you endlessly, Peter).
After the party ended, when the guests left and I was alone in my new space, I distinctly remember feeling the tree’s presence. As crazy as it sounds, this new leafy pal was like a roommate—the best kind that didn't use the last roll of toilet paper or leave the lights on. The fiddle-leaf fig enlivened my home and, in turn, enlivened me.
When I wake up in the morning and make my way to my workspace, it feels like I'm walking into a quaint jungle of greens, each with its own personality and pizzazz.
Fast forward several years and my houseplant collection has grown tenfold. My partner—also a plantsman—and I recently moved into a 525-square-foot apartment together in Brooklyn and thus merged our collection of greens. The result? Plants in every corner and crevice—37, to be exact—ranging from tendrils of pothos to tropical agave. It's definitely a lot to take in upon entering the apartment, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
As a freelance writer working during a pandemic, my day is spent entirely at home. While I used to split my time between the library, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, and my at-home desk, the current COVID dilemma has rendered the aforementioned external destinations unsafe and impossible.
I'll admit, it wasn't a walk in the park transitioning to this confined setup. As much as I love my new apartment, it is tiny, and when I need to kickstart creativity, the same small room day after day can prove to be a challenging environment in which to do consistently good work. That said, there is one aspect that I've found genuinely improves my work acumen: You guessed it, those 37 plants.
In case you're curious, a few examples of the plants we have sprinkled around our small abode include but are not limited to the following: a Norfolk pine, philodendron, pothos, cactus, spider plant, ZZ, as well as a ton of succulents and a big ole' palm smack in the middle of our center window. When I wake up in the morning and make my way to my workspace, it feels like I'm walking into a quaint jungle of greens, each with its own personality and pizzazz.
Turns out, this sense of community I'm feeling isn't uncommon. Incorporating plants into the workspace —also referred to as Biophilic design—has proved it is beneficial to build a bridge between the indoors and nature. In a 2014 study that conducted three experiments in large commercial offices in The Netherlands and the U.K., it was discovered that offices enriched with plants improved employees' well-being and productivity.
There are countless other studies that prove exposure to plants reduces stress and improves one's emotional state, along with experiments that demonstrated designing workspaces with plants improves one's ability to focus and aids with accomplishing tasks.
If you don't have the time to sift through journals reading studies about plants (which is fair), the most important sentiment to ascertain is this: If you're feeling fatigued from a year of working at home, invest in a houseplant—or several. It is scientifically proven to make you happier, less stressed, and more fulfilled in your work, amongst many other things.
Nieuwenhuis M, Knight C, Postmes T, Haslam SA. The Relative Benefits of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied. 2014;20(3):199-214. doi:10.1037/xap0000024
An M, Colarelli SM, O’Brien K, Boyajian ME. Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(5):e0155614. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155614