Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Cost/benefit analysis of office plants

Plant display maintenance is probably the least costly service available to building management but due to the perception that plants are a luxury item, this service is one of the first that facilities managers cut back on. This is especially so in the current economic climate. Unless the density of the planting is excessive, the actual cost saving made is minimal and the loss of the environmental and indirect financial benefits far outweigh the gain on the accountant’s spreadsheet. So what are the costs involved? A large plant display, say 5ft tall (1.5m) costs around £1.25 plus vat per week to maintain. For that price, the customer gets weekly visits for watering, cleaning, removal of dead or dying leaves and, if need be, pest control. Now here’s the no brainer part. The outlay of £1.25 also covers the cost of replacement plants when that plant dies due to natural causes. Yes, that’s right. For a maintenance service of only £1.25 plus vat per plant you get free replacements for ever! Naturally, the contractor will charge if anyone falls on top of the plant after a lengthy business lunch and squashes it flat. This is an unlikely scenario, however, as business lunches have also been cut due to the economic crisis.

What are the benefits of having plants in the office? Firstly, aesthetics: lush green foliage adds the perception of luxury leading to the presumption that the company is successful. Secondly, environmental: plant displays can have a calming effect, reducing employee stress. Studies by NASA have shown the certain plants remove toxins from the air and have a beneficial effect on staff morale. Increased staff morale means increased productivity and a reduced turnover of staff. A reduced turnover of staff means a reduction in recruitment and training costs. How much would that £1.25 plus vat per week (probably divided between five or six members of staff) have saved so far? Well the cost of recruiting a new member of staff can be between £ 4000 and £16,000.

Let’s do some sums. Say you have twenty plant displays in your office. That’s an annual maintenance cost of £1300 plus tax. Cancel that contract and you have saved £ 1300. Excellent! Not. When the staff return to work after the weekend (and the plants will usually be removed at the weekend to avoid a rebellion) they will notice that one of their indirect benefits has been taken away. Seeds of discontent are sown. One of the team notices that things aren’t going too well and they start to look around for a new job just in case redundancies are made. They may want to be one of the first to leave so that they can get the new job before anyone else is interested in it. As it happens, the firm announces that no redundancies were going to be made as yet but the staff member decides to leave anyway. Cost of recruiting new member of staff: minimum £4000. Savings made on cancellation of plant contract £ 1300. You do the math! You don’t have any plants in the office any more so your recruitment costs are likely to increase.

Happy office/ Sad office

Moral of the day: keep the plants, keep the staff, keep your money! A selection of the types of plants and flowers available for the office can be seen here: http://www.plantdisplayhire.com/ and plant containers or planters can be purchased online at http://www.plantcontainershop.com/.

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