Employee happiness is integral to building a great business. Studies show that happy employees are more productive and, on average, produce higher quality work. Accordingly, influential companies have orchestrated a number of initiatives designed solely to increase employee happiness—from happy hour at the office to conferences at Disney World. Today’s employees want to see that the time and labor they put into their jobs comes with benefits that improve their quality of life, especially as employee wages stagnate and the amount of time they spend at work increases. Being able to have a cocktail in the afternoon, wear jeans on the job, or enjoy a complimentary gym membership can somewhat mollify the modern woes of employment (though a raise would certainly be better than a gin and tonic).
As gardening has become a more popular pastime, so to have companies looked to building community gardens as another way of boosting employee morale. Companies such as PepsiCo and Google have set aside plots of land on their lavish business properties for employees to plant produce and flowers. Likewise, smaller businesses have also invested in company gardens (though their plots are typically more humble than those of large companies’—PepsiCo’s plot is the size of two football fields). On these plots, employees are allowed free range to grow whatever they want. They can take home the finished product, or, alternatively, they can donate their produce to a local food bank. Either way, the act of growing fresh and healthy food does serve to make employees feel better about the time they’re spending at work.
The Benefits of Company Gardening
The potentially deleterious health effects of office work are no secret, and there has been increasing pressure on many businesses to encourage their employees to build healthy work-life habits. Maintaining a company garden is one way of getting workers out of their desks and into the great outdoors. No doubt, they appreciate the break. Sitting in a chair all day is bad for both the body and the mind, and productivity suffers when employee health is jeopardized. Employers are now looking towards company gardens as a way to encourage exercise and healthy eating. Google even uses some of the produce its company garden yields to offer healthier options at their café. Other companies and employees look towards company gardens more for their mental health benefits. In a garden, bottom lines and the daily grind become unimportant compared to the very concrete and tangible work of growing vegetables from mounds of dirt. Plus, the end result—fresh produce—feels like a hard-won and well deserved reward, whether it’s being taken home or donated to a community charity. Simply put, gardening is a feel-good activity that helps less enjoyable activities (making sales, dealing with angry customers) feel more bearable. Alone, it’s not enough to make a hard job all that much easier, but in combination with other policies that prioritize employee wellness, it can make all the difference.