The experiment will measure public creativity after visitors to the show experience one of four office designs.

Public creativity put to the test in Chelsea Flower Show psychology experiment

This year’s 100th Chelsea Flower Show will host an experiment to investigate whether office plants can be used to boost staff well-being and business profitability.

Visitors to the show will be challenged to take part in the study which will measure their creativity, happiness and productivity as they experience a range of different workspace designs.

The study, designed by researchers at the University of Exeter, in association with Indoor Garden Design, will compare the work output of people who experience the different workspaces. The findings are expected to challenge the common approach taken by many organisations where managers create a ‘lean’ controlled working environment in which plants are seen as an unnecessary or even wasteful element of the business environment.

Psychologist Dr Craig Knight from the University of Exeter said: “We have previously shown that designing your own workspace improves health, happiness and productivity. It is now time to go a step further and see whether the principle can also be applied to creativity and indeed whether the very act of designing the workspace can be used more effectively.

“If the results from our Chelsea Flower Show experiment indicate that plants, in a well designed and personalised office environment, can boost business effectiveness through improved staff productivity and creativity, it would give company managers a real incentive to share control of office space with their staff and create a meaningful, less didactic and more grown up space.”

The Chelsea experiment will allow the public to experience one of four typical office designs. When a buzzer sounds the members of the public experiencing the stand will be invited to undertake tasks to measure their productivity, wellbeing and creativity. The measures will be collated for each office design and differences between the designs will be assessed at the end of the show.

Ian Drummond, Creative Director of Indoor Garden Design said: “I am delighted to be a part of this very important experiment. So much of what we do is putting living nature into offices – the benefit of plants is so important in the workspace. I am really looking forward to being able to see the results at first hand - working directly with the members of the public - this is a live experiment and what better stage than the centenary Chelsea Flower Show.”

The experiment builds on Knight’s research with colleagues from the University of Exeter's Psychology Department. Previous work has revealed the potential for remarkable improvements in job satisfaction and performance by allowing workers to personalise their office space. The research showed that employees who have control over the layout of their workspace are not only happier and healthier but are also more productive.

The Chelsea experiment will progress this leading edge work by quantitatively measuring creativity across different conditions and by varying the input of professional design in the development of a workspace. This high profile study will precede a two part longitudinal workplace investigation with large office based organisations.

Date: 16 May 2013

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