How workplace gardens improve employee wellness
Friday, January 03, 2014
Employees with access to a workplace garden reap the benefits. Not only do they have greater availability of healthy produce, but they also have access to a meditative space of nurturing calm.
Michelle Reynolds wrote in the State by State Gardening Newsletter that she has noticed this trend cropping up in workplaces, including her own. For her, caring for the plants in her own workplace garden provides an enjoyable and positive atmosphere, bringing her a sense of tranquility, harmony and satisfaction.
The Bradford Group is one organization with a workplace garden featuring bamboo and ficus trees, waterfalls and natural lighting. Employees eat, relax and creatively brainstorm in this sacred space.
Effects on Employee Wellness and Satisfaction
Reynolds shares that she loves tending the garden in her workplace and that doesn't exclude pulling weeds. She may feel that control over worldwide issues is out of her hands, but she can use gardening to gain a sense of control over her own day.
“I love the smell of the earth, the dirt under my fingernails and the sense of calm that gardening gives my mind and my body," Reynolds writes. "This reward reminds me of what is important in life and it energizes me before I go back to work."
BLR's article "Garden Helps Employees Enjoy the Fruits of their Labor" praises Lundberg Family Farms' employee garden as a low-cost way to provide employees with wellness benefits and healthier sources for snacking. They have received constructive testimonies from employees on how the garden has enhanced their health and wellness.
Since the garden was implemented, other benefits have been observed among employees such as heightened productivity, a more united and loyal workforce, diminished absenteeism and a reduction in healthcare expenditures.
A garden can certainly harmonize a workplace, unifying it as a community. The roles of supervisor, intern, assistant and manager momentarily dissolve when everyone has their hands in the dirt. Gardening provides ample opportunities for exercise, which helps combat the obesity epidemic exacerbated by a sedentary work environment.
CNN’s article "Why Gardening is Good for Your Health" describes a study that took place in Norway, documenting the effects of gardening on mental health. The study participants were diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood or bipolar disorder. They dedicated six hours each week to nurturing a garden.
Over the course of three months, half of all study participants demonstrated a significant reduction in their depression symptoms. Even after finishing the program, the benefits continued; their mood stayed elevated for three months without continued gardening via the program.
Workplace Gardens for Small Offices
A workplace garden can be created even if minimal space is available. Indeed, offices with minimal space both indoors and outdoors can benefit the most from gardens that think outside the box: try vertical gardens including planters of flowers and ferns scaling walls, “living walls” growing on cubicles, or living wall trellises, casting away traditional cubicle walls entirely.
A chance to get creative during a hectic day can improve employee satisfaction and wellness: think moss tables, carpets, walls and sculptures; and aeroponic planters to filter the air. These aesthetically pleasing gardens also work well during the wintertime, when grown primarily indoors.
What to Do with All That Produce?
Some organizations opt to consume the produce they grow, distributing it throughout the workplace. Others donate to food banks, shelters or other charities. It is also possible to combine both approaches, especially if more produce is grown than the employees can eat themselves. Sharing the abundance empowers employees with the satisfaction of serving others in a manner they can feel great about.
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