Business of Well-being

The Office Garden: Fruits, Vegetables, and Happier Employees

According to staff surveys at Chesapeake Energy Corporation, a natural gas production company in Oklahoma, its office garden produces more than just corn and berries; it produces camaraderie and increased morale among employees.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation isn't the only business that's benefitting from an office garden as part of its corporate wellness plan. Other companies that have been growing vegetables and harvesting the corporate benefits include Southwest Airlines, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Hewlett Packard, and Google.

In fact, office gardens are a rising trend among many small businesses and Fortune 500 companies, because they provide an opportunity for employees to leave their desks, work alongside colleagues, and balance their hectic workday with sunshine, fresh air, and physical movement.

An office garden can also provide plenty of fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs that can be divvied up among employees and their families, sold for profit, or donated to a local food pantry.

From a corporate point of view, an office garden is a great, low-cost alternative to other wellness initiatives, as its start-up requires nothing more than a little space, dirt, and a handful of seeds.

For Chesapeake, the office garden is maintained daily by a group of employees, but all staff members are encouraged to participate in its upkeep when their schedule permits them to do so.

While it may seem that gardening and business suits don't mix, the number of corporate-funded gardens has steadily increased over the years, as reported by the National Gardening Association. This is mainly due to a rise in corporate wellness plans that highlight the low-cost benefits of office gardens, as well as an increased demand for organically grown foods.

According to Steve Bates, an avid gardener and editorial manager at the Society of Human Resource Managers, "[Gardening] hits a lot of themes. Companies pay tons of money for off-site team-building [and] high-powered consultants. They accomplish the same things with seeds and a strip of land."

For most businesses, an office garden encourages teamwork, unites a diverse group of employees from different departments, and promotes a healthy work-life balance. So the next time you pass through your company's parking lot or common area, try envisioning lush tomato plants growing between the sidewalk and concrete parking blocks, or passionfruit vines sprawling up the side of your building. Even if the space your company has is small, the rewards of cultivating that space into an office garden are immeasurable.

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