Plants in the workplace

One of the nice things of organizational development consulting is the range of work that comes my way. This week it's been a new piece for me – community gardening. This started with the move to hoteling and hot desking when we issued an edict that personal potted plants would not be feasible in a situation where people did not have their 'own' desk. (The organization does not have a contract with a company to bring in and maintain plants).

Given that people are moving to a new building with all sorts of accolades for green-ness and sustainability there was, rightly, significant 'pushback' on the plant issue. We got a delightful email from one of the environmental experts that the organization employs giving all the benefits of plants in terms of mitigating the effects of chemical toxins and fume given off by new carpets, furnishings, and so on.

The net result has been a suggestion that we instigate a community plant scheme. The details need to be hammered out but there's a certain amount of information to draw on – mostly related to outdoor community gardens.

The New York Times ran an article on thistopic in May this year. Titled 'The rise of company gardens' it comments on the increasing number of companies (Pepsico included) whose employees are gardening in office time and space. The article reports:

As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow.

Carved from rolling green office park turf or tucked into containers on rooftops and converted smoking areas, these corporate plots of dirt spring from growing attention to sustainability and a rising interest in gardening. But they also reflect an economy that calls for creative ways to build workers' morale and health.

Molly Mann's blog commenting on the NY Times article makes the point that:

Corporate gardens yield myriad benefits for employees and employers alike. Though it may not be feasible in all corporate settings, installing a patch of green amid a sea of cubicles is a great way to improve worker health and morale without digging too deeply into the company budget.

Our plan is to have indoor plants that are maintained by employees with guidance on the types of plants that would work in the amount of light that's available, where to site them, how to think about using them for internal 'landscaping', and similar.

Getting somewhat carried away we began to imagine herb gardens in planters in the kitchen areas – in fact the US Green Building Council does have this – with the notion that employees could enhance their lunch with office grown herbs.

Anyway that is somewhat in the future. The first step is to float the idea and see how many people are interested. Then work out the design of the scheme including methods of operating it – pilot, payment, committee, etc, etc? No doubt we'll have to run the gamut of barriers (health and safety, financial, compliance, etc) but its worth taking a shot at getting it up and running.