Out with the lean, in with the green

Out with the lean, in with the green

It is well known (and there is plenty of research to prove it) that offices with plants and greenery incorporated into their design and layout lead to happier, healthier and more productive employees.

In fact, the lean office concept that has been the basis of office design over the last 20 years finally appears to be taking a back seat as more and more leading organisations and business owners realise that office landscaping can make a major contribution not only to employee wellbeing but also to organisational output.  According to one study, workers who can see greenery from their desks complete tasks up to twelve percent faster and are less stressed than those in a ‘lean’ office environment. Research by the Agricultural University of Norway found that plants help to reduce sickness amongst workers, lowering costs associated with short-term absences due to illness.

Breathing life into office design

The link between human wellbeing and the natural world is well documented. Studies on Biophilic design show how interior designers are increasingly referencing and incorporating nature in their work. Office landscaping and interior plant design is also fast-becoming the foundation for best-practice office and workspace design across the architecture, building and interior design industries. It’s more than just a trend. With people living and working indoors 90 percent of the time, plants are now playing a subtle but significant role in the changing face of office design by offering a vital, meaningful and healthy connection with the natural, outside world.

Living sculptures enhance organisational culture

The benefit of plants doesn’t stop at health, happiness, wellbeing and productivity. Plants are also living sculptures that add a sense of luxury, prestige, success and trust to any workspace or office design. Author of The Manual of Interior Plantscaping Kathy Fediw found that people felt more confident working and dealing with companies that have plants incorporated into their built environment. A clever use of greenery within foyers, reception areas and board rooms can also enhance perception of a brand and business culture.

Five ways designers can use plants to enhance office fitouts

There is no limit to how plants can be expertly and creatively integrated into office fitouts and refurbishments to maximise their aesthetic and health benefits.

Plants can be used to introduce a movable, changeable living element for a fraction of the cost of a new wall or architectural element by:

  1. Changing the ambience and structure of an office space.
  2. Becoming a focal point, framing a view or providing a ‘living’ screen between spaces.
  3. Helping to reduce noise by being an acoustic buffer.
  4. Creating new perceptions of height and space within a lobby or large-scale area or small area.
  5. Providing pops of colour, intrigue and shape to basic interiors.

Two of the biggest considerations for workspace designers when considering suitable plantings for an interior are the levels of light and amount of space available for plants and greenery. Plants shouldn’t restrict movement, be placed in unstable positions or be inaccessible for watering. University of Melbourne and RMIT researchers have even crunched the numbers and found that one medium sized plant per 2.2 square metres provides the best results to remove air pollutants! Hanging plants in windows or green walls are great alternatives when it comes to limited space – and with the variety of plants now available for indoor decoration – the only limit is the designer’s imagination.

Leafy, green goodness 

It’s no secret that plants play an important role when it comes to the overall design and fitout of an office.

Plants not only benefit employee’s health, wellbeing and sense of place in the world, they can help to increase productivity and organisational output.  They’re also a simple and effective design element that can be used to impress and influence clients and visitors by hinting at the values and culture of an organisation – which, in this competitive age, is something any business owner can’t afford to overlook. Is it time you turned your office green?


Plant advocates McCormack Property Services work alongside interior design studio Studio 103 on office fitouts and design projects. Studio 103 works with and recommends the experts at planting rental companies (FrenchamsAmbiusZants Plants) and pot suppliers, such as Ivy Muse and On the Side in Melbourne, for pots that can add style and character to fitouts.



·        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262947979_An_explorative_review_of_the_Lean_office_concept

·        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264395358_The_Relative_Benefits_of_Green_Versus_Lean_Office_Space_Three_Field_Experiments

·        https://wiredspace.wits.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10539/23847/Lara%20Bloch_%28456105%29_MA_%28Organisational%20Psychology%29_2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

·        https://www.ieqindoorplants.com.au/health-relationship-to-plants/benefits-of-office-plants/

·        https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/

·        https://www.ambius.com/blog/plants-and-people-the-biophilia-hypothesis/

·        https://www.timberpress.com/blog/2016/05/what-plants-contribute-to-interior-design/

·        https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/how-a-pot-plant-or-five-is-good-for-you