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Flower power

New research project investigates link between nature and well-being and productivity

Jez Rose, Behaviour Expert and Author
Jez Rose, Behaviour Expert and Author

Instinctively, most of us understand that getting outside or experiencing nature in some way is good for us – we just feel better afterwards. A number of studies have attempted to prove a connection between health and nature, for example by providing hospital patients with plants to care for or by encouraging people to spend more time outside.

In April, the University of Derby and The Wildlife Trust published the results of a month-long nature challenge, 30 Days Wild, which found that people who did something ‘wild’ every day for a month, such as eating lunch outside or growing plants, experienced improvements in their physical and mental well-being.

Now, a new project is seeking to prove a link between workplace absenteeism and office workers’ access to the natural environment. The Good Life Project, endorsed by the Soil Association, is being spearheaded by behaviour expert and author Jez Rose supported by a team of psychologists and neuro-scientists.

Rose said: “Latest figures show that the average level of workplace absence in the UK is 6.9 days per employee, with minor illness remaining the most common cause of short term absence and creating a cost to the employer of £554 per employee.

“Too many organisations are moving backwards towards hot desks and banning personalisation of working spaces and even plants in the workplace. This flies in the face of years of evidence-based research proving that a connection to our natural environment is not only important but also makes a huge difference to individual performance and well-being.”

He added: “Happy people are more productive and take fewer sick days. If we can create environments which promote that, organisations will be more profitable too.”

The Good Life Project, due to take place over a period of six to twelve months, aims to fnd out what effect a range of workplace initiatives based around the natural environment have on employees’ well-being.

The project team is inviting businesses to get involved, by nominating colleagues to become ‘Good Life Ambassadors’. The first cohort, which includes employees of a number of large, well-known organisations, started in October and will be conducting a series of ‘interventions’ in their workplace, reporting the results back to The Good Life Project.

Interventions include displaying different depictions of the natural environment on office walls to gauge the effect art has on workplace stress levels; an indoor herb garden for employees to tend and enjoy during downtime; and encouraging outdoor activity at lunchtimes and after work.

Rose hopes the research will prove that having contact with, or sight of, nature improves workplace wellbeing, efficiency and workplace profitability through reductions in stress and absenteeism.

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