Plants and music can work wonders

GARDEN OFFICE: Employees at Mitsui Designtec say the use of green plants and aroma diffuser in the office makes it feel like they are working in a garden and this helps to relieve stress.


    Jun 14, 2016

    Plants and music can work wonders


    THE lemon scent wafting from an aroma diffuser and the sight of green plants greet employees when they arrive for work at Mitsui Designtec, a Tokyo-based interior design company. The effect of the aroma diffuser and potted plants, placed by the window or on top of round tables, helps relieve the stress of employees.

    Some say they feel "as if they're working in a garden".

    Efforts to improve working environments through pleasant aromas or background music are spreading among companies.

    The implementation of stress checks, which became mandatory in December for companies with more than 50 employees, seems to have also nudged companies to take extra steps to keep their employees mentally agile.

    These stress checks are ideally held at least once a year. Employees are asked, among other things, about their workload and relationships with their superiors.

    When Mitsui Designtec partially renovated its office in October 2014, an open seating system was introduced so employees could sit wherever they liked. New desks that could be raised or lowered to allow workers to either stand or sit were installed, along with a coffee space.

    According to the company, more than 80 per cent of the workers said they felt more comfortable with the new environment.

    Yasuo Ishida, who was in charge of the renovation, said the staff's working efficiency had improved. "Monthly overtime hours were reduced by an average of 8½ hours per employee," he noted.

    Experts said having green plants and pleasant aromas in the workplace reduces stress.

    Data has shown that pleasant aromas reduce the number of typing mistakes when working on computer keyboards.

    Yukihiro Hashimoto, a professor at Polytechnic University who specialises in architectural environment engineering, said having common plants is good enough.

    "Just looking at them regularly reduces psychological burdens," he added.

    More companies are playing music in the office too.

    Tokyo-based Usen Corp, which offers a service providing background music at workplaces, said the rate of companies taking up the service was four times faster than in 2013, when it was rolled out.

    Said Usen's public relations officer Sayaka Shimizu: "The companies are now paying a lot of attention to mental health because of the introduction of the stress checks."

    Staffing agency Staffservice, for instance, has recently started playing music at its office.

    Employees would hear the sounds of birds chirping when they arrive for work in the morning, and at 3 pm, energetic music that accompanies an exercise programme is played.

    Dvorak's Going Home is aired at 7pm to encourage employees to pack up.

    Moe Ishizuka, who is in charge of the background music, said the music has helped staff communicate better.

    "People might be hesitant to speak in a quiet office but background music makes them more talkative," she noted.

    Haruhisa Wago, a professor at Saitama Medical University who studies music therapy, said music with a fast tempo and pleasant chords, such as Mozart's piano pieces, not only helps reduce stress, but also improves concentration. "We can expect positive effects on productivity," he added.