Let’s face it: Working in an office is unnatural.
Our prehistoric ancestors didn’t spend their days in cubicles. No, Nancy and Nick Neanderthal didn’t punch in or sign in or strive to survive with windows that don’t open and an air-conditioning system so stingy you have to put in a requisition to get oxygen.
And this is unfortunate. As human people, “our emotions, our thinking, our connections to others and our physical well-being are all enhanced by being in and around nature.”
Who says? Anthony Klotz, Shawn McClean and Pok Man Tang say in “A Little Nature in the Office Boosts Morale and Productivity,” their recent research report in the Harvard Business Review.
Not everyone will agree that nature is on our side, in the office or out. Hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes do little to enhance our daily lives. Still, if you can boost your career with a case of poison ivy, I say — let the scratching begin.
In their research, the authors measured the reaction of workers when showed photos of offices with and without plant life. (No, the accounting department was not considered plant life.) They also assessed employees actual contact with views of nature in an office setting. They even tested the consequences of working near running water, but I can’t confirm the reliability of these results. I imagine most participants in this experiment were spending significant parts of their workdays running to the bathroom.
In all cases, the addition of nature to the workplace “improved the way employees felt in ways that fueled higher performance, increased helping, and enhanced performance.”
My favorite experiment involved the researchers sneaking into offices at night to “place potted plants at some employees’ desks and similar pots, only filled with office supplies, at other desks.”
Again, the results showed that the potted-plant people were happier and more productive, but I don’t believe it. What’s more motivating than a box of paper clips showing up at your desk without even begging?
If the HBR article doesn’t make your management team add a touch of nature to your workplace, here are four steps you can take to green up your office and spruce up your career.
No. 1: Mushroom Farm
A Jack-in-the-Beanstalk desk plant, growing through the ceiling so you can climb up and slay the giants in Executive Row, may symbolize the career you want, but to represent the career you have, you can’t beat the lowly mushroom. You can keep a mini-mushroom farm in your bottom desk drawer, next to your Ozempic. To grow, mushrooms must be kept in the dark and regularly covered with manure, so you will definitely identify.
No. 2: Tiger Tiger Burning Bright
There’s more in nature than plants to brighten our workdays; there are also animals. If a touch of green makes such a big influence on your productivity and your mood, imagine how motivating a streak of orange and black tiger skin would be, roaming the office, hunting for prey. Don’t have time to train a tiger? Get career points by recommending it to your manager. A modicum of savage jungle aggression will fit well with their own predator image, and they just might give you a pass as they chew up everyone who gets in their way.
No. 3: Buzzy Bees
If a tiger is too much for the peaceable kingdom that is your office, consider hiding a bees’ nest in the supply closet. Mother Nature’s worker bees, flying around in thick swarms, stinging everyone in sight, will surely send your fellow worker bees scurrying, leaving you, cool, calm and available, in your beekeepers helmet, to grab all the high-visibility projects.
No. 4: Meet a Meat-Eater
If your company insists on decorating your office with wimpy plants, strike back by distributing Venus flytraps to the management team. These natural meat-eaters will be warmly received by your corporate meat-eaters, who will instantly identify with the leafy carnivores. Little do they know that when they take their after-lunch naps, their voracious desk plants will make a lunch out of them.
While the research was limited to office workers, it definitely applies to remote workers, too.
Stretching out a hammock and doing your work while swinging gently in the breeze will surely increase your productivity, at least for the five minutes before you fall asleep.
Whether this kind of behavior will improve your chances to get ahead we can’t be sure, but know this: When your career falls apart, you definitely will be well rested.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected]. To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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