Workplace Biodiversity Champion Inspires Us All to Do More

I recently had the opportunity to meet Vicky Cotton, ESG Director at Workman, and client of Planteria, to talk to her about her role and her passion for Biodiversity.

Vicky’s background: With 25 years of experience in Real Estate, including 13 in property management, Vicky is extremely experienced and well-educated in ESG (environmental social, and governance) in the built environment. Across the full asset spectrum, Vicky’s expertise extends from issues around wellbeing in the workplace to increasing biodiversity on site. 

Passionate about the environment and sustainable management processes, in 2020, Vicky created the Net Zero Asset Plan, to lead clients through the process of achieving zero carbon emissions, in line with government targets for 2050, or sooner. A year later, Vicky created the Building Biodiversity Toolkit, designed to encourage property managers, on-site teams, and clients to increase the level of biodiversity in the built environment, however concrete or hostile it may seem.

Vicky Cotton

Q: How has your role at Workman developed, especially now that everyone seems to be talking about ESG? 

A: My role has developed and expanded over the years as ESG has gained prominence, covering issues as wide-ranging as climate change, employee wellbeing, and diversity of the board, which is considered by most as an increasingly important marker in how a company fares, both in terms of financial performance and how it is perceived.

ESG threads through so many aspects of the property management business, linking together issues such as air quality, intelligent building systems, and occupier engagement, as well as the drive towards Net Zero Carbon for each and every building.

But people still need prompting of the urgency of the situation we face. I like to remind clients and property managers that there is a huge collective responsibility ahead, within a limited timeframe and only one refurbishment cycle away – miss it now and we risk missing it entirely.

Q: We have been approached by a number of your property managers about increasing biodiversity across Workman properties – where has this push come from? 

A: We launched our Net Zero Asset plan in 2020 as a way to help clients achieve their Net Zero goals on properties from the largest to the smallest. This was also the year that our partnership with the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project began. Home | Workman Building Biodiversity (workman-building-biodiversity.co.uk)

We know that the value of nature in the built environment cannot be underestimated. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Nature and Business Report, a focus on biodiversity in the built environment could create more than $3 trillion in business opportunities and 117 million jobs globally by 2030.

Humans rely on trees and shrubs to absorb air pollution in urban areas; not only do plants and trees produce oxygen; they also store carbon by literally sucking it out of the atmosphere. Indeed, the UN Environment Programme discovered that nature can deliver carbon reductions of at least 30% by 2030 if biodiversity is protected and enhanced. It is an easy win in my opinion.

Q: What role has lockdown played in all of this – has it helped or hindered? 

A: Having spent a year working from home due to the pandemic, urban dwellers have fallen in love with nature on their doorsteps, with many keen to replicate a natural environment in their wider urban environment.

The pandemic has meant that environmental challenges such as halting biodiversity loss in urban areas have taken on new meaning.

There is a drive for people to be outside and a greater appreciation for outside spaces and making the most of those.

For example, at Central Retail Park in Falkirk, Workman has established an urban garden, which has produced fruit and flowers for occupiers, as well as providing a quiet, restful place for break times. Building the social value of an urban garden | Workman was achieved at a very low cost and has had a huge impact on the local community and the team. We created a garden with raised beds, planting from seed.

Bought the team together and gave them something to do in lockdown. I had a letter from one of the security guards who was involved in the project to say that it had saved his life by giving him purpose during such a bleak time.

The garden was awarded a GOLD Scottish Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice 2021.

beautiful garden

Q: Tell me about the toolkit – how do you intend this to be used and how can we help? 

A: The toolkit came out of the Building Biodiversity Challenge. There is an opportunity for everybody across any asset we manage to make a difference. It is to give our property managers ideas of what they can do, that they can take it and run with it. We have had a great response from our site staff who have embraced it.

Inspired by the Falkirk project, as well as our partnership with the Natural History Museum’s Urban Nature Project, we developed the Building Biodiversity Toolkit for property managers.

launched in Spring 2021, the aim of the Building Biodiversity Toolkit is to provide a practical checklist for property managers and all our gardeners and landscapers so that they can select biodiversity initiatives that are best suited to their properties and their clients’ needs.

It’s often simple to increase biodiversity at leafy business park locations, but at properties where there is little outside space, we need to be more creative, which is where Planteria can help, with more creative initiatives such as green walls.

Here is a flavour of projects we are already working on 10 ways to Build Biodiversity | Workman Building Biodiversity (workman-building-biodiversity.co.uk)

This initiative has been met with great enthusiasm and passion by our team. The clients appreciate it too and the fact that it makes a big difference for a minimal cost. One client told us that for them ESG is as important as the return on the asset.

Q: What are the next steps – where do you want to go with this in the longer term? 

A: Next steps we want to see how far we can go. Ideally, we want to include as much biodiversity as possible across our managed portfolio, which covers 4,300 properties across the UK, providing services to more than 20,000 occupiers across all sectors of commercial property.

We are currently running a competition for our property managers to encourage and incentivise them to step up their biodiversity planning. This feeds into net-zero goals and boosts occupier wellbeing strategies.

It also means that our clients are ahead of the curve when it comes to urban greening legislation, such as Biodiversity Net Gain and other upcoming new rules, as outlined here: The Building Biodiversity Rules: What exactly are they? | Workman (workman-building-biodiversity.co.uk)

beautiful garden rooftop

Q: Who needs to get involved and how? 

A: Everyone needs to get involved, anyone can make an impact at home. It’s a piece of the big jigsaw to get to net-zero and make an improvement to biodiversity.

In the UK, 80% of the population lives in urban areas, and this is projected to rise to 92% by 2030, leading to larger cities and more challenges for wildlife. This means towns and cities are rapidly becoming where most people will experience nature. Therefore, these are key places to protect the UK’s biodiversity, and this means everyone needs to get involved, from property managers and onsite teams to landscapers and clients themselves.

Technology will catch up with this work and we will be able to measure how adding planting improves air quality.

With the collaboration of everyone involved in the property industry, we can make a real difference. Building Biodiversity for a better world | Workman Building Biodiversity (workman-building-biodiversity.co.uk)


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What Comes Next? The Future of the Workspace

An Interview with Leeson Medhurst, Head of Strategy, Peldon Rose

The whole subject of the Workplace has been put under the spotlight, as organisations navigate a new chapter, and look at new ways of working. The pandemic and sudden shift to homeworking have meant that for many it is time to take stock and reflect on what comes next for them and weigh up options and make changes that will potentially improve their success and at the same time attract and retain the best talent. It is an exciting time, but for some overwhelming, with so many aspects to consider.

I met up with Leeson Medhurst, Head of Strategy, for workplace design expert Peldon Rose, to ask him his informed views and thoughts on this hot topic and find out how he has been helping clients and what his clients are experiencing. Leeson has been in the industry for over 20 years, with a particular focus on the area of agile and flexible working… 

Leeson Medhurst

Q: How have the events of the past year shifted our working style and blurred the lines further between our work and home lives?

A: The reality is that our working lives have changed dramatically and quickly since March last year, most of us were sent home and had to work from there with no notice. For some this was easy, for those that already had the facilities to work from home and were already working from home some of the time, they were able to make this transition successfully, but for others, this was a lot more difficult. The reaction time for most businesses was dramatic they managed to mobilise this aspect quickly.

In the past we had 3 defined parts to our day; work, social time, and sleep, during lockdown this was no longer the case. For many there was also a sense of anxiety and a fear that they needed to prove their worth to their boss, to show that they were being effective and productive. Many people started to work longer hours which is not healthy in the long term.

This is not something you would do in a traditional office setting, where your day would be more structured, and you would leave the office a set time, probably commute and switch off before arriving home. In lockdown, this structure disappeared, and people started to not switch off, it was too easy to go back to the computer again later in the evening blurring the lines of work and home.

Veritas_019

Q: For some working from home has harmed their wellbeing and mental health yet for others it has been a blessing in disguise. How can we now strike a balance between the two when considering the return to the workplace?

A: One benefit of working from home is having more control over our lives, more time in the morning and at the end of the day. This was a novelty factor for many of us at first, we suddenly had some extra time to do other things, like having breakfast with our family, running, or exercising when we wanted to. People have enjoyed the choice and flexibility, for example being able to do the school run, run errands, and attend appointments, which is much easier to fit in when you are working from home and has made work-life balance easier to manage. People want choice and flexibility.

I do believe that home life should be sacred and respected. Work has its place and home has its place, and we need to have downtime and need to relax, it is essential for our wellbeing. Richard Branson once famously said “happy employees = happy clients = happy shareholders” and it is very true.

If we are happy, we are our performance is going to be better.

hermes2

Q: How will what we’ve gone through shape office design?

A: Well, in terms of space, it’s not going to change office design all that much. One question that has come up is that clients will ask – ‘can we now have less office space now?’. The answer to this is that you are still going to need your office space, but you might now want to use it differently. If you are looking at a simple linear layout with desks, it is easy to fit that in.

But, if you want to use your office space for more collaborative work, which is likely to be a preference and a requirement now, you need the space to do this. For example, to give the flexibility for a and 2/3, 3/2 model we need arenas to be designed to allow for this new way of working, offering a different typology.

With areas to catch up and generate ideas, blended spaces with phone booths, high and low tables, and seating spaces. To do this, you need more space. The real estate conversation is not to go into decline, but rather to evolve into a more hospitality-led type of space. This kind of working energises people and improves the experience of work, elevating it to improve communication and results. It’s also important that it works for all personality types and working styles, introvert, extrovert, quiet critical work, and creative work.

The two biggest costs to an organisation are your staff and your property but equally, they are your biggest assets so you need to address how you get the best out of them and support them.

hermes9

Q: We know that many people are anxious about returning to the workplace. Can we improve wellbeing, and help to alleviate anxiety through Workplace Design?

A: By designing spaces that are attractive and include elements that are proven to boost mood and relaxation, for example, by adding biophilic elements into your design, like green plants and nature-based colour palettes. Opt for a “resi-mmercial” style with more soft furnishings, some sofa seating, and by providing some private working options to allow people to experience some of the quiet time they found easy to get at home, and by offering flexibility to work from or the office and home some of the time.

If you want to begin encouraging people back to the office, you need to think about what the benefits are for them. People can work easily from home, so why do they want to go back? I am working on helping organisations with this by creating better and more enticing environments to welcome people back to the office space.

Veritas_062

Q: How has the pandemic affected the client brief? How do you help clients to assess what they need next and design the right space for their organisation?

A: You need to start at the beginning. I ask the Senior Leadership Team – what do you want from your business. Much of the commentary of the past few months has been through the optic of the user. But what does the company need? If a company has evolved over say 100 years as a brand and a culture, this cannot and may not want to change overnight. We will have those deep conversations; where are you now? Where do you want to get to? And then discover what the process is that is going to help you get there.

When we know what level of flexibility is right for the business, the space becomes the enabler to support the organisation. The right space, designed to fit the need, will support that business, its culture and vision.

Some businesses have made the decision that they want to be a place-based organisation, we help them navigate that, with the understanding that the decision means they cannot be everybody’s friend. They will need to help to think through those conversations about which teams need to be in at the same time, and ensuring it is thought through in detail, for example, have an IT infrastructure in place to support that.

A lot of data needs to be gathered and the right questions asked first before we can arrive at the best solution, typically it takes 8 weeks to complete this process. If you are looking to move, you should start thinking about your real estate strategy around one year ahead of your lease break.

My overarching advice to organisations is not to be afraid of agility flexibility. It is not new; we have been talking about this for a long time and we have a lot of experience and we can help you with this. We have many case studies which we can draw on from our existing clients. It is something that is 20 years old – we can absolutely help you harness a remote workforce and design a workplace that works for your organisation.


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Wellbeing Programmes: What are They, and Why Do They Matter?

Special guest blog by John Walters, Co-founder & Director of Questae Collective.

Businesses have many differing objectives. They have different visions, and goals. They have different internal cultures, societal belief systems, habits, traditions. Things are done in a certain way because that is how they do them! They have hierarchy, roles, responsibilities, and structures. They also have many different departments, all with their own differing cultures, personalities, and communication processes.

But the one thing they do all have in common, is that they all have PEOPLE!

workplace wellbeing

Studies have found that 1 in 5 people take a day off due to stress, yet 90% of these people cited a different reason for their absence. Source MHFA England

And when we look at the statistics, it’s even more concerning. Data from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) 2019 report has found that “17.5 million working days were lost last year due to mental health-related sickness absence.” Source ONS Labour Force Survey

The report further found that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 44% of all work-related ill health cases and 54% of all working days lost due to ill health.” Source MHFA England

The workplace is certainly shifting, and the past 10 months have accelerated this incredibly, irreversibly maybe (I hope so).

Culture within the workplace, whether that be at home, in the office, in transit, co-working space, or wherever it is, is now more than ever changing how we work, how we interact, how we communicate.

So how do we ensure that this shift takes us towards a culture of health and wellbeing?

How can businesses embrace this shift to help their people nourish, thrive, and expand?

planteria plants

The first question we often get asked is “what is wellness?”

Our take on this is that wellness is an active process of becoming aware of, and making choices toward, a healthy and fulfilling life. It is more than just being free from illness; it is a dynamic process of change and growth. Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

“Physical and mental health are inextricably connected; without one, the other cannot thrive.” An interview with Rex Millar www.rexmillar.com

Businesses that have already engaged in programmes, or implemented strategies or shifts in their culture to embrace, promote, and live by the pillars of wellness, they really are making a difference, but not only to their people, to themselves as well.

By treating their people as individuals, by empowering them and creating a culture that has a focus on offering, and expanding ideas, knowledge, techniques, and skills to enhance wellness and wellbeing, they have shifted their culture in a way that supports, guides, and encourages individuals with the aim of enhancing physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

So, what’s in it for the business?

Vitality Health’s ‘Britain’s Healthiest Workplace’ initiative has proven that businesses that embrace wellness as a fundamental part of their culture do thrive and succeed and expand in many more ways that just bottom line. In fact, in an open letter to business leaders in the 2019 2019 Health at Work Report, Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality UK writes, “when employers embark on promoting better health among their employees, there are no losers. Employees are healthier, happier, and more engaged with their work: employers benefit from a more productive and motivated workforce, with lower levels of sickness absence.”

These benefits include:

  • Greater employee engagement
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Reduced employee burnout
  • Reduced sick days
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Enhanced positive communication
  • Less stress
  • Increased profitability
  • Attraction and retention of staff
  • Happier healthier people
  • Enhanced communication
  • Resilience

On top of these benefits, the people, the staff, and I mean all of them all the way up to the executive leadership teams, will benefit from a greater understanding of wellness, and will have a better understanding of themselves, their emotions and those of their colleagues.

But what really makes the change is the tool kit that they will all have within their own personal armoury. They will have the knowledge, the skills, and the confidence to manage many situations and scenarios that currently they would not. Situations that may cause them, and those around them, distress, stress, anxiety, panic, mood changes and many more.

They will know what they need to do for themselves, and how to encourage others.

So, what are some of the simple, and easy to achieve tools, tips or activities that we can take part in?

Get out and into nature, embrace the sunshine and fresh air or, when indoors, whether in the home or workspace, bring nature with you by introducing biophilia, which literally means ‘love of life’. This can improve productivity, lower stress levels, enhance learning comprehension, and increase recovery rates from illness.

Researchers have found that more than 90% of people would imagine themselves in a natural setting when asked to think of a place where they felt relaxed and calm. Being in or around nature makes us feel good, our physical and mental wellbeing depends on us spending time in a natural environment and this affects our productivity and general wellbeing too. Source Biophilia – What is it and why is it important? | PlanteriaSimilar benefits can be received in the work place from the installation of corporate plants in commercial spaces.

Exercise, no matter how simple (or intense), as well as eating nutritious food, maintaining good gut health, and keeping energy levels up, can help too.

Relax at work concept. Yoga mat in an office desk

Finding time and space for ourselves, whether this is meditation or reading a good book it important as well, as is laughter – watch a good old comedy (or a new one, of course).

Keep a check on finances, on your vocational ambitions, and recognise how you are feeling in your mind… how is your emotional wellbeing and what are you doing to maintain healthy, positive mindfulness?

By implementing and creating such inclusive, open and caring cultures, conversations that would normally be considered ‘unspeakable’ or ‘not for the office’ will be normalised. People will feel listened to, valued, appreciated, welcome, safe. They will have the tools to understand, be compassionate, caring, and be inclusive to all.

And there you have it, in simplistic terms, to enjoy the journey that wellness takes us on, we need to understand and implement the strategies that work for us, that bring us an overall feeling of wellbeing, and we can now see, and understand, in very simplistic terms, the many benefits to enjoy.

The key now is to get businesses to see, understand, value, and implement strategies within the workplace to complete the circle.

If you have read this, and you would like to know more, or if you would like to find out how we can assist, guide and implement programmes tailored for you, then please do get in touch on:


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How to Combat WFH Fatigue

Special guest blog by Katie Henry, Director and Founder of Art in Offices.

Are you still working from home (WFH)? Us too and, to be honest, we’re getting a little tired of it. There are positives, of course; we don’t have to commute and shove ourselves into tin cans for a 30min+ journey into the city, it’s convenient for dropping the kids off at school (when we’re not in lockdown and home-schooling), and yes, we probably see more of our families and other halves (if we’re lucky enough to live with them). We can also raid the fridge for whatever we want and go for walks whenever we want; but there are negatives too.

Office plants

Without the stimulus of group chats, collaborative conversations, and a dedicated working space which separates life from home (not to mention our favourite coffee shop and some lunchtime shopping), we might find our mental health suffering and WFH fatigue setting in.

So what can we do? You’ll be pleased to know there is actually a very simple solution which applies not just to working from home, but to the office environment too. Here’s the simple formula:

Plants + Art = more productive and happier you.

Home Office 1 - Blue Riad

Yep, it really is that simple. As you will have read in previous blogs I’ve written, Dr Craig Knight of the University of Exeter has studied workspaces (in this case offices) and, in his study of 2010, he compared offices which are unenriched (meaning they have no plants or decoration) to those which were.

The results were staggering. Simply adding plants and art increased productivity in the staff by up to 35% and staff wellness increased by 42%. And when we say wellness, we mean people noted less stress, less mental anguish, less anxiety, there were fewer sick days and everyone felt happier. When people were allowed to curate their own space and choose what they had in the office, these figures went up even more.

Bedroom setup with art and plants

So, lucky you, working from home, you have the opportunity now to curate your own workspace and choose which plants and art you have up on the wall! It’s for just this reason that Art in Offices is collaborating with Planteria to provide you with the solution to having both of these things in your home workspace.

Art In Offices have launched a 3-month rental service specifically for your homes, and Planteria has just launched Planteria Homes. Art in Offices offering includes a new range of super affordable prints (which can be rented from just £25 per month) as well as the massive array of paintings they would usually hang in offices.

dreamer art print

And Foli8 is our online shop supplying a selection of quality plants ideal for the home, which can be delivered to your home or the home of your employees anywhere in the UK.

We are both offering discount codes to our loyal follower and clients, which can be found on our social media and newsletters or get in touch to organise.

But why does this work? What is it about plants and art that increase our productivity and our wellness?

In the case of art, the reason it makes us more productive is because it creates an atmosphere we enjoy working in. There are stimulating things to look at, our brains are constantly stimulated and when we get screen fatigue there is something enjoyable to look at and get lost in, until your brain feels ready to start again.

In the case of plants, the greenery gets us back to nature and the outdoors (the natural habitat for humans who have been farming and living in the landscape for millennia), they purify the air, add texture and interest and something to nurture (even for those of us who aren’t green-fingered – we might still say hello to them).

Phlebodium Aureum

It’s all about creating an atmosphere that’s conducive to making you feel happy, which is why those figures shoot up when people get to decide themselves what they see (we all have different tastes after all).

Right now, we all need to be doing things that make us happy, so add some plants and art to your space, and feel the difference it makes to your day.


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Return To The Office – How Plants Can Help

In March, people from all over the UK found themselves in a unique situation. Most were not used to working from home but, suddenly, had to adapt to a new situation. Remote working quickly became the norm and many people have truly enjoyed the experience; however, there is no denying that this type of work also has several drawbacks.

Below, we’re taking a look at the good and bad of working from home – and how plants can help to prepare for a return to the office.

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

Pros

Apart from self-employed individuals, such as freelancers, remote working was new for the vast majority of people. Most have adapted very well to the circumstances and have reported an increase in their productivity and efficiency. In fact, in a recent survey, 43% of bosses surveyed found that remote work had a positive impact on productivity since lockdown started.

After all, working from home allows you to have more flexibility when it comes to work hours, since you are able to create or adapt your schedule to fit your lifestyle. This means more time with family too.

It might also be your case that working in an office means having to deal with distractions that bring down your productivity levels; so, you may find that working from home allows you to focus on work and makes it easier to take a break.

Another benefit is not having to commute. Not only is commuting time-consuming and, therefore, an interference on work-life balance, but it can also be expensive. Due to this, you probably appreciate being able to save money on fuel or train fares; working from home also means you’re not spending money on coffee runs and eating out.

Cons

However, while there is no doubt that working from home offers a host of benefits, it can also have several downsides, which make people keen to return to the office.

A big issue with remote working is isolation. If you’re used to chatting with colleagues on a daily basis, you probably miss the face-to-face interactions and might end up feeling lonely. Loneliness is not conducive to productivity or creativity. On the contrary, if you feel lonely, you will likely feel less motivated and without energy as well.

Another disadvantage of remote working is how boring the experience can quickly become. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and world-wide lockdown measures, you may have dreamed of working from home. However, it’s clear that looking at the same four walls every day without a change of scenery can be harmful to your mental health. This means cabin fever, stress or depression.

Working from home blurs the lines between professional and personal lives, as you may have been forced to work from your kitchen, bedroom or living room. Not every home environment is appropriate for remote work either, be it because of children in the room or simply lack of space, which can have a negative impact on work.

Something else to consider is how out of touch people have felt with their wider business community and with their clients. In the office, it’s easier for you to communicate with your peers, partners and customers but, when working from home, these connections are not as strong.

Returning to the Office

A lot of people are still working remotely but a return to the office is now imminent.

Of course, it’s not expected that businesses demand everyone returns to the office at once. This will likely be a phased-in return in line with current government guidance, which will see the slow re-introduction of the office to the many individuals working from home or on furlough.

It’s crucial that workplaces ensure the safety and comfort of their staff, and you’ll be surprised at the key role plants can play in this process.

Plant Barriers

For example, office plants can be used to delineate areas and teams. They allow you to implement social distancing measures easily and, because you’re using plants instead of tape to mark spaces, your employees can benefit from a green and aesthetically pleasing office.

A 2016 study found that cognition can be boosted by 26% in green workspaces, and that people’s wellbeing and productivity improve with plants around them as well. This makes adding green barriers to the office a great argument.

Replacing Desks with Plants

If, because of social distancing, you have to remove desks, you don’t want the office to look sparse and empty. Adding plants to the newly vacated spots is a great solution because it makes the office look attractive and vibrant.

Plants Help with Anxiety

A fantastic benefit of plants in the office is that they ease anxiety and stress levels, perfect to help with the current circumstances.

Plants reduce stress at work, as they help people feel calmer and more positive. Both having visual access to plants and being allowed to care for them (passive and active involvement) can have a calming effect. So, by adding plants to the workplace, you can help your staff fight anxiety and stay relaxed.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you to prepare for a return to the office with our plants and to create a peaceful environment that your employees will love.

 

 


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Prepare for The New Normal With Illona Hands-Free Sanitiser

As the country’s workforce starts to make its way back to factories, shops and offices throughout the UK, we do so with one overriding question on our minds – what will the ‘new normal’ look like?

Just about every organisation across the country has been affected by the recent Covid-19 outbreak, and whilst it’s true that life around the office won’t return to normal overnight, there’s a lot we can do to make our working environment feel safer and more comfortable for those returning from furlough or from home-working back to the workplace.

Planning Our Workspaces for The New-Normal

So, let’s take a quick look at some of the things we should be thinking about when re-introducing our workforce back into the office.

Cleanliness is Key

Government guidelines advise that workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards.  Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

We’ve all become acutely aware of is the number things we touch every day, usually without even realising it. Just think about how many items you might touch during a normal day in the office before you even get to your desk.  Maybe your commute starts on public transport? Then, there are the doors, maybe there’s a turnstile, an elevator button, or did you take the stairs and grab the rail? Did you nip into the coffee shop to pick up some breakfast? Did you pay cash, or tap the buttons on the debit card keypad?

If we then consider that a 2015 study carried out by The National Library of Medicine showed that on average, we touch our faces around 23 times per hour, it’s easy to see why the simple act of regularly sanitising our hands can make such a big difference.

“On average, each of the 26 observed students touched their face 23 times per hour. Of all face touches, 44% (1,024/2,346) involved contact with a mucous membrane, whereas 56% (1,322/2,346) of contacts involved nonmucosal areas.”

Yes, it sounds fairly unpleasant when it’s put in those terms, but it’s the reason why one of the most important messages throughout this pandemic has been for the public to frequently and thoroughly wash their hands.

So, to help reduce the risk of infection in our customer’s offices and workspaces (as well as our own), we’ve developed the Ilona Touch-free Hand Sanitiser Dispenser.

Ilona Touch Free

Employees Should Be Re-Introduced Gradually

This is something that replicates our overall approach to bringing the lockdown to an end; re-opening gradually. The same goes for our office spaces. It’s a good idea to start with a limited number of people, for example those who are unable to work from home.

If you have multiple teams working in the same area, you might want to consider arranging alternate days for them to be in the office. Split team working is also a good idea; this simply means that a percentage of the team works from the office while their counterparts work from home, then they switch.

Think About Your Home-Working Policy

One thing that recent months has taught many of us is that thanks to technology, we have the ability to be just as effective at home as we are in the office. If your team members are able to work from home, then putting a fixed rota in place will help to reduce any potential infection risks, whilst allowing your team to enjoy team work and social interaction again in doses.

Plan Your Workspace with Social Distancing in Mind

One thing’s for certain, we’ll need to change the way we interact with our colleagues at work. This means that people shouldn’t be seated too close together, if you have a hot-desking policy, a fixed desk policy would be more sensible, at least for the short term.

You’ll need to think about how people move around the office too. Using signs and barriers will help people pass each other without getting too close. If you have a lift, it’s a good idea to limit that to 1 or 2 people at a time, or just to those who need it.  If you are re-configuring offices, be creative by adding plants which can be used to mark our separate areas, or incorporated into barriers and cabinet tops, to create a sense of well-being and calm as well as looking beautiful.

Improve the Wellbeing of Your Teams with Plants and PPE packs

Making sure employees feel comfortable about returning to the workplace goes beyond simply making sure their environment is safe. With lockdown taking its toll on many of us, getting back into the outside world can feel pretty daunting. The prospect of using public transport and heading back to the office will be a cause of anxiety for many – that’s where office plants can bring real benefits to your team’s wellbeing.

Office Flowers

It’s currently mandatory that those of us who rely on public transport for our daily commute are required to wear some kind of face-covering while we travel.

Consider having a supply of PPE in the office for teams to use as they need. Planteria offer a ‘Sani-pac’ which contains everything you may need to help keep you safe including 3-ply masks, hand sanitiser for your personal work area, anti bacterial spray and wipes for your desks and keyboards, as well as disposable gloves, and tissues.

Make your office a welcoming, calm and relaxing place to return to, by adding some office plants. Plants are known to produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air, actually making the air in your workplace cleaner, and are shown to reduce anxiety and fatigue.

So, while it might not sound like much, investing in a few office plants can make all the difference to your team.

Get in touch with us, we are ready to help you create the best return for your team.


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6 Plants That Induce Sleep

The Daily Mirror once reported that over a third of the British public was suffering from sleep problems. The NHS have since provided a report that considers the methods in which this information was gathered, and how much the results should be trusted. To surmise, the final evaluation was that the report was not, and never pretended to be, a scientific study and therefore should be treated with caution.

On the other hand, it is not wrong that a worryingly large percentage of people do struggle with their sleep, and poor sleep can negatively impact an individual’s life in many areas. The Daily Mirror brought sleep back to the centre of public thought, and since then, other studies about how sleep patterns affect mental health and physical health have become more widely read.

Bedroom with plants biophillia

How Can I Improve My Sleep?

There are many things that you can do to improve your sleep. You could avoid taking caffeinated products and drinks before bedtime, engage in relaxing activities before bed, and set regular times to encourage good habits, but you could also consider adding some plant life to your bedroom.

We are experts with indoor plants and indoor flowers, so let us help you to achieve a better night’s sleep with some natural interior design changes.

 

Lavender

The scent of lavender is well known for being relaxing. Scientifically, it has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, which is beneficial if you find yourself struggling with anxiety when you get into bed.

Many people use lavender spray on their pillows, others use pouches of dried lavender in their pyjama drawers to scent their sleep clothes, but we think that the best solution is a pot of fresh lavender by your bed. Lavender has a beautiful colour that you will appreciate every morning, whilst its scent calms your nights.

Lavender plants like warmth and sunlight, so keep one on your windowsill.

(Sansevieria) Snake Plant

Air quality is another factor that might be affecting your ability to sleep easily and through the night. We spend a lot of time breathing moisture into our bedrooms, and this can increase the humidity levels in the room, especially if you keep the door shut as this decreases air circulation around your house.

High humidity increases the likelihood of mould and dust mites, which can affect your ability to breathe and leave you with a poor night’s sleep. Snake plants are great at pumping oxygen into your bedroom to improve your air quality, and their large leaves are also good for removing plenty of harmful chemicals such as xylene, trichloroethylene, toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde.

Peace Lily

Air that is too damp can cause plenty of problems, but dry air can also be an issue for sleep. If your bedroom has an issue with dry air, you might be better using a peace lily. These lilies can increase your bedroom’s humidity by up to 5%, which is known to decrease dry skin and hair, static electricity, and increased susceptibility to colds (ApartmentTherapy).

A peace lily will not require much watering or light, so you can keep it right next to your bed without worrying that it has enough resources.

Aloe

Aloe is a popular plant in most households, famous for its ability to soothe minor cuts, burns, bites and dry skin – but have you thought about introducing one into your bedroom? Aloe vera makes oxygen at night-time, which is great for your bedroom’s environment. Aloe likes a lot of sun, so keep it in the window next to your lavender.

Happy aloe plant

Areca Palm

Areca palm is known for being one of the best air purifiers. Like the snake plant, it has great ability in removing toxins from the air. The areca palm is also a natural air humidifier, ensuring that bedroom maintains great air quality while you sleep.

This plant requires a lot of bright but indirect light. If the light is too harsh, the leaves will turn yellow. Keep your areca palm healthy by keeping the soil moist during the spring and summer, allowing it to dry out between watering in autumn and winter.

English Ivy

If your bedroom struggles with damp, English ivy is another plant that can help to combat some of the issues that could be causing poor respiration in your bedroom. This sprawling, leafy plant is fantastic at collecting airborne mould – preventing you from ingesting it and developing an infection.

Are Plants in the Bedroom Harmful?

No, most plants are not harmful to keep in your bedroom. Plants produce small amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) during the day which some people worry about, but they produce far less than a human partner or pet and are therefore they are not harmful to your home. These plants’ ability to produce oxygen means that they are actually very beneficial sleeping partners.

For more information about putting plants on your premises, go to our blog.


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Outside Spaces and How to Make the Most of Them

Outside spaces at the workplace can often be forgotten about, but we’re looking to change that.  An outside space can be a place for relaxation, re-energising, and creativity.  We strive to encourage more businesses to incorporate popular biophilic trends by blurring the lines between indoors and out – and we love to discuss the benefits of doing so.

Here, you can learn about some of the best ways to use your outdoors spaces, as well as how to bring a piece of the outdoors into your establishment with indoor office plants.

Flexible Meeting Spaces

If you’re working in close proximity to a park or garden, using this space to hold meetings could prove to be great for morale – especially during warm weather.  Of course, we wouldn’t recommend hosting any meetings that will include information that is confidential to your clients, but taking a break from the office to discuss internal changes, processes or brainstorming will maintain efficiency with time, and may even help your workers to stay productive later into the working day.

 

Informal Lunch Area

Many offices have difficulty keeping their indoor air quality at healthy levels, so encouraging staff to take a break in the outdoors can improve  health and concentration. Particle pollution is known to poorly affect physical and mental health, and indoor spaces are typically ten times worse for this pollution than outdoors. Taking a break from particle pollution can do wonders for the help and headspace of your staff, so if it’s a nice day – why not suggest a picnic? Ideally, if you do have some viable outdoor space at your office, providing table and chairs to create an alfresco area which can be used for eating, taking a coffee break or having an informal meeting is an excellent idea.

Breakout!

Help to boost health and wellbeing, by turning your outdoor space into a useable attractive area for a quick spell outside for formalised lunchtimes. When under duress a break outside can help staff to reset and return with a fresh can-do attitude, whether they’ve just struggled with an intense call with a client or business partner, or a busy morning with back-to-back activity. Plants and nature have plenty of restorative qualities. Your business could easily be enjoying these benefits with minimal cost.  The added benefit of topping up vitamin D levels in the sunshine and taking in the view of green plants will also help to improve immune systems to work optimally and keep your workforce healthier and happier.

Bringing the Outdoors IN

In many cases, a green attractive outdoor space may not be within a lunchtime walking distance of the office.  And you may not be lucky enough to have accessible outdoor space of your own.  In this case, you may be looking to bring aspects of the outdoors into your workspace so that staff and guests can still reap some of the benefits of natural elements and plants.

Looking around your office, you may find some areas that can easily be converted into a green space. Think about you dining area, or communal areas such as locker tops, or break out rooms.  Here are some popular methods that modern businesses use to bring biophilic benefits into their place of work:

Entrances

Often overlooked but integral to the first impressions of your business, the entrance can be a fabulous place to start adding some greenery.  Not only important for your guests, a green entrance will suggest positivity to your workers as they enter and leave your establishment.

There are a number of methods for increasing your kerb-appeal, including window boxes and external green walls, but you might also choose to add an internal moss wall to your lobby area, large and unique planting options by the door, and table posies in waiting areas.

If you’re interested about installing a moss wall or green living wall for your business, we recommend reading our blogs on this topic:

Can I have a Living Wall?

It’s Alive! Buildings with Living Walls

Moss Walls: Q & A

 

Roof

Green roofing is a brilliant idea – looking out for your office window, a green roof nearby brings brilliant rural landscapes a little closer to city-orientated businesses. Our brains respond very positively to colour, and views to nature so the sight of a verdant green roof could prove to be quite inspiring, boosting productivity and creativity.

There may be a group near you that you can help to get involved with green initiatives. A BID (Business Improvement District) will typically group neighbouring businesses in an effort to improve their local working area together, and sometimes, this might include making their views greener by collaboratively installing green roofs.

Balcony and Terraces

Balconies and terraces can be a great place for workers to enjoy a brief respite in the fresh air, but you can bring nature even closer by installing some beautiful window boxes or planters to add to the relaxing vibe and make them visually beautiful.

Could your business be making more of outside spaces, or is it more feasible for you to create some green spaces inside your own office area?  We love all things biophilic and can help you with any green design queries that you might have, so speak to one of our friendly team about your ideas soon.

CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US


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Can I have a Living Wall?  And What ‘Green Wall’ alternatives are there?

Without a doubt, living walls look stunning and provide large swathes of real planting from floor to ceiling, creating a real impact…

A living wall can have numerous benefits in business environments; they can help to make staff more productive in the workplace and are equally important in improving the perception of your brand. In this article, you can find out the main points to consider when thinking about a living wall for your space, and why it could be important for your staff or guests.

Green Wall for CTA

Can I have a living wall?

Almost definitely yes! Or at least, the effect that a living wall can give. We create bespoke walls for your requirements, though there will be some spaces more suited to live living walls than others.

A living wall works best in a well-lit space with plenty of room and fresh air circulating. For example, entrance atriums and large reception areas with hard or concrete floors. It is ideal to install them when a building is being constructed so that the irrigation system can be put in and the living wall placed on top. This can also off-set some of the cost, as the wall won’t need plastering and painting.

If you have a carpeted area or a space with lower light levels, such as a restaurant or traditional carpeted office reception, you could consider an artificial living wall instead. These look beautiful and give a very similar effect, creating the same kind of wow factor. For office spaces, moss walls also make an excellent option for giving a high impact finish, they are easy to retrofit and require minimal ongoing maintenance.

Another option to include real, live planting without the commitment and expense of a full living wall, is to opt for live dividers or panels. These are self-contained green modular products and give a great effect. These can be replanted on a regular basis to give a different look and so can be treated like art installations. You can also use them to give seasonal variation to your location…

tall green wall in a clean white entry space

Where is the best location for different types of green walls?

The best type of wall for you will depend on your location and the requirements of the plants you select. For example, some plants need more light than others so if you are planning to place your living wall in a bright and airy reception, you will have lots of options for the type of plants you can use.  For dark areas, you may need a growing light. You can also opt for moss walls or artificial living walls as these are perfect options for many spaces. Moss walls look exquisite when executed by professional plant technicians like Planteria. With lots of colour options and three different types of moss to choose from; bun moss, flat moss or reindeer moss, there are lots of variations to make your wall unique. You can also include your logo or a message and have something bespoke and specific to your company.

Here’s some more reading material on living walls to get you inspired for your new project:

It’s Alive! Buildings with Living Walls

Moss Walls: Q & A

 

What is A living picture and what types of living walls are there?

A living picture is a self-contained piece of art with a frame and a central section of planting. Living pictures look beautiful and can be hung singularly or in groups.  Also available in this type of product are living panels and dividers. These are easy to maintain and a cheaper option than a full-scale living wall. There are lots of options for different types of planting and it can be regularly changed to give different effects throughout the year. If you move offices, you can even take these with you which you can’t do with a traditional built-in living wall.

When would I opt for Moss wall?

We supply sixteen different colours of preserved moss which can be used to beautifully create bespoke walls and even replicate your logo. Most moss is not recommended for use in exterior positions, but for interiors it is easy to manage and control. It is lightweight and fairly straightforward to install, making it ideal for most office environment.

Why would I choose an artificial living wall?

An artificial living wall brings many of the design benefits of a real living wall, with far less maintenance or ongoing costs associated with a real living wall. Obviously, an artificial plant does not grow, and you won’t reap the benefits of the air cleansing and CO2 absorption that you get with real planting. You also need to consider that artificial planting, made from plastics, is not as environmentally friendly as the real deal. However, just like interior furnishings, they last a long time and can be moved with you if you are moving offices, so this should be weighed up in your considerations.

moss wall plants living wall broccoli and cauliflower

Which are best and why?

There is no right answer to this question as whether you opt for a traditional built in living wall with its own Irrigation system, an artificial living wall, a living picture,  panel, divider, or moss wall, will largely depend on your vision for your premises and the constraints of your environment and budget.

When planning in your green wall, you need to ask your plant provider questions like:

  • Is this right for my space?
  • How much will it cost to install?
  • What will the monthly cost of ongoing maintenance be?
  • What possible issues might occur that I need to keep in mind for the future?

Big living wall in reception area biophillia biophilia

If you would like to discuss your location and options to help you decide which is best for you, please get in touch with Planteria group today for a free consultation and quotation service.


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Biophilia & other Reasons to Have Plants in the Workplace

If you’ve been reading about the buzzword Biophilia but have yet to understand what the buzz is about, then we’ve made a helpful infographic for you, designed to show you the amazing relationships that can occur between workers and plants in the modern office.

Plants truly are amazing. If you’re looking to improve your office space with some smart greenery, why not enhance your office with our office plants for hire service. Impress your workers and guests with an outstanding boardroom, ensure that they remember you as an innovative and forward-thinking company by transforming your spaces into greener, healthier, places to enjoy working in.

planteria group infographic

And if you’re interested in reading more about the joys of biophilia and the many benefits of plants, we have plenty of blogs to keep you up-to-date on the latest hints, tips and news:

   Biophilia – What is It and Why is it Important

   Indoor Air Quality: Facts & How to Improve

   The Best Plants for Your Office Environment

   Biophilic Design in the Workplace


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The Benefits of Biophilic Design in the Workplace

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Anyone with a keen eye for design will have spotted the rise of the ‘Biophilia’ design trend. Plants; they are everywhere at the moment.

Planters of succulents, shelves of spider plants and ferns, indoor hanging plants in every room, even printed wallpaper with banana leaf or palm leaf patterns. However, there is much more to this trend than just aesthetics.

plants on shelves in office

The Rise of Biophilia

The whole concept of Biophilia (The love of nature and living things) connects us to the wider world and our innate desire to protect and nurture that which feeds us and does us good, both physically and also emotionally.

One of the ‘founding fathers’ of the psychology behind biophilia was Edward O Wilson. He coined the term Biophilia and wrote the book of the same name, first published in 1984 and still widely available if you want a more in-depth read on the topic.

A synopsis of the subject and some of the research that has come out of it can be found here:  Biophilia white paper.  Another great source of information and brilliant blogs is the Human Spaces blog, and you can subscribe for free. In addition, a recent blog post of ours looked at The Three Pillars of Biophilic Design.

office wall art

 

The Benefits of Biophilia

There are many benefits to having plant displays and other biophilic elements in your work or home interior. Biophilic elements refer to anything that evokes the sense of the beauty of the natural world, such as water features, fish tanks or plants.

You can also add natural analogues which are patterns and design styles that mimic nature – think honeycomb patterns, furnishings with curved edges even artificial planting or wood-effect flooring. It’s not so much about the what, it’s more about how the inclusion of biophilic elements make people feel.

white and black office planters

 

Here are 5 benefits of Biophilic Design in the Workplace:

1. Live plants improve air-quality.

They do this by using carbon dioxide (bad for us) to produce oxygen (good for us). They also transpire through their leaves, making the air more humid, which is excellent for combating the problem of dry-air, a widely reported problem in air-conditioned offices.

Additionally, plants absorb VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as chemicals that are widely used in domestic cleaning products, contained within some carpets and emitted from electronics. More about improving air-quality here.

 

   2. Make you more creative and (as much as 15% more) productive.

A series of studies from Exeter University concluded that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces were filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are more efficient and more creative workers.

office plants in white planter

 

3. Helps relieve stress and improve mental well-being.

Stress is a known cause of both mental health disorders and cardiovascular diseases. According to the World Health Organisation mental health and cardiovascular diseases are expected to the be the two prime contributing factors to illnesses worldwide by 2020.

Studies also show that our ability to directly access nature can alleviate feelings of stress. The millions of neural channels in our brain link to the human body’s nervous system. This system is comprised of two networks: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. The sympathetic system stimulates the human body when cognitive function is needed. The parasympathetic system serves to relax the body and is used for internal processes such as digestion. When the body’s natural balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic is achieved, the body is in the ideal state of homeostasis.

But in chaotic and stressful environments, like a busy office, the body’s sympathetic system is highly engaged in a “fight-or-flight” mindset. Concurrently, the parasympathetic system is suppressed, disrupting our natural balance and resulting in energy drain and mental fatigue. This combination induces stress, frustration, irritability and distraction. In contrast, human interaction with nature provides an increase in sympathetic activity. This results in decreased stress and irritability and the increased ability to concentrate.

In Japan Shirin-Yoku (Forest Bathing), the practice of mindfully spending time in the forest, using all of your senses to appreciate nature, has been proven to combat stress, enhance mental wellness and bolster brain health.

 

4. Feel happier and healthier.

Not surprisingly, biophilic elements make us feel in a more positive frame of mind.  Positive people have a positive impact on others, take better care of themselves and are healthier. Another point to consider here is that they are less likely to be off work sick, so if you are still on the fence about adding biophilic elements to your workspace, consider the impact it could have on reducing absenteeism in your office.

 

5. Attract and Retain the best talent.

 Having a thoughtfully designed, attractive workspace, full of natural light and biophilic elements, shows who you are as an organisation.  It also sends a powerful message about your social conscience and green-credibility and that you care about your colleagues.  We spend a large amount of time at work, and whilst we are there, we want it to be a positive experience.

Want to add some biophilic elements to your workspace, retail space or venue? Contact us today.


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World FM Day 2018: Enabling Positive Experiences

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It’s #WorldFMDay – Hurrah! We’re joining in the celebrations and recognition of Facilities Management (FM) people and projects that enable positive experiences. Some of our biggest clients are FM companies and BIFM members, so we know a thing or two about helping get things right for you and your clients.

In today’s world our cities are so built up and our environments often claustrophobic and bland so it’s more important than ever that we work together to create welcoming, feel-good spaces to enable businesses (and people) to thrive.

What could be more suitable than floristry and green planting to bring positive changes to the built environment?   Planteria Group has 40 years of experience working with FM companies providing planting and floristry services to suit your budget.  Even if you’re already working with another planting provider, we’re confident we can go above and beyond to meet your requirements.  If you’re considering us, why not request a no-obligation free quote?

 

5 Positive Benefits of Planting for the Built Environment:

1) Soften the interior and/or exterior of your business, providing psychological benefits such as positive effects on reducing stress and promoting health and well-being. As humans we have an innate desire to be connected to nature, also known as biophilia, and it seems we have lost much of this ability to be in the natural world as our cities and work environments have become absorbed by the concrete jungle. By adding a variety of plants and flowers for businesses we suddenly bring back a part of the nature that we crave.

2) Increase productivity, creativity and happiness. It is proven that a vibrant, welcoming environment has positive effects on the speed at which we work and improves mood. Studies show that employees who are exposed to plants within the workplace, actively engage with their surroundings, are more productive and have a more positive outlook at work.

3) Make spaces more welcoming and inviting for employees, visitors and clients. Having a space that is pleasant to be in and beckons to visitors has a positive effect on businesses and improves perception of their image. Plants and flowers bring life to a space and boosts eco-credentials too.

4) Improve air quality and reduce allergens by cleansing the air. As shown in NASA’s Clean Air Study, plants provide a natural way of removing toxins from the air and also reduces the presence of aggravating allergens. NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space.

5) Reduce sickness and absence at work. Combining all of the points above results in reduced illness and time away from work, increasing the overall effectiveness of businesses and staff wellbeing. One of the most common illnesses in today’s workplace is Sick Building Syndrome which is often linked to poor air quality and indoor air circulation which can easily be combated with a variety of planting solutions.

A recent Norwegian research study tested what happened when plants were placed into and then removed from offices. When plants were present headaches, coughs, sore throats, fatigue and dry skin all reduced. Several similar studies around the world have found similar results:

  • Absenteeism reduced by 30%+
  • Minor illnesses reduced by up to 30%
  • Dry skin reduced by up to 20%
  • Coughing reduced by up 37% due to improved air quality

Interested in how we can offer similar improvements for you?

Have a look at some of our Creative Planting Innovations & our Nationwide Orchid Delivery Service.

Contact Us Today or Request a Free Online Quote.

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