EEG Headsets Uncover Stress Reduction with Flowers in Workplace

A study by the College of Architecture and Urban Planning found that looking at blue or purple flowers for three minutes can significantly reduce stress at work. The authors hope that understanding the impact of flowers on alpha waves and how they create feelings of relaxation can help design less stressful workspaces.

The findings, called Effects of Viewing Flowering Plants on Employees’ Wellbeing in an Office-like Environment, were published in Indoor and Built Environment. Citing stress as the leading cause of physical and mental illnesses, Elsadek et al. (2020) wanted to learn whether flowering plants have psychophysiological effects on people experiencing it. To find out, thirty female finance employees with an average age of 29.42 were fitted with an EPOC Series wireless EEG headset. No coffee or tobacco was allowed, and all participants were required to have normal visual acuity or corrected-to-normal vision.

At 3 p.m. on a normal work day, each study participant would enter a room and focus on blue hydrangea flowers, purple hydrangea flowers, or an empty desk for three minutes each. EEG recordings were taken using the EMOTIV Software Development Kit (SDK). The researchers also measured heart rate variability skin conductance. Each participant was exposed to all three visual stimuli.

Figure 1. Experimental setting and the physiological measurements during exposure to visual stimulation.

Viewing blue and purple hydrangea flowers resulted in a significant increase in alpha waves in the prefrontal and occipital lopes compared to the control. In addition, researchers observed a significance increase in parasympathetic nervous activity. 

“Results indicate that viewing flowering plants would be a promising therapeutic approach for enhancing physiological functions and improving psychological relaxation for office workers,” write Elsadek et al. (2020).

Several previous studies have shown the benefits of green and flowering plants in a work environment, but this experiment found that color may hold the key to efficacy.

“Although the presence of indoor flowering plants has positive impacts on office workers, these positive impacts are also influenced by the color of the flower,” said Elsadek et al. (2020). “Notably, we found that the blue flowers had the greatest ability to enhance participants’ feelings of relaxation compared with the purple flowers and control. This has implications for promoting the use of specific colors of indoor flowering plants to enhance relaxation and reduce stress for office workers and indoor residents.”


Elsadek, M., & Liu, B. (2020). Effects of viewing flowering plants on employees’ wellbeing in an office-like environment. Indoor and Built Environment, 30(9), 1429–1440. https://doi.org/10.1177/1420326×20942572

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