Kate Humble backs Good Life workplace garden project

A new research initiative called the Good Life Project backed by broadcasters Kate Humble and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has launched aiming to provide evidence-based and cost-effective solutions to the benefits of nature in making businesses happier, healthier and more profitable.

Kate Humble
Kate Humble

The project is being spearheaded by behaviour expert and author Jez Rose along with a team of psychologists and neuro-scientists and is endorsed by the Soil Association.

The Good Life Project is designed to overcome the problem of workplace absenteeism by trying out a range of workplace initiatives based around the natural environment to see what sort of difference they make to an employee’s feeling of wellbeing.

Rose believes many organisations are heading in the wrong direction: "Latest figures show that the average level of workplace absence in the UK is 6.9 days per employee with minor illness remaining the most common cause of short-term absence and creating a cost to the employer of £554 per employee.

"Too many organisations are moving backwards – towards hot desks and banning personalisation of working spaces and even plants from the workplace. This flies in the face of years of evidence-based research proving that a connection to our natural environment is not only important, but it also makes a huge difference to individual performance and well-being."

 "Happy people are more productive and take fewer sick days, which ultimately means that if we can create environments which promote that, organisations will be more profitable too."

Broadcaster Kate Humble said: "I grew up in the countryside but had something of a 'nature deficit' when I lived and worked in London for 20 years. I discovered that having less contact with the outdoors – Oxford Street didn't count! – and with nature and all its seasonal changes, made me feel restless, disconnected and unhappy.  

"There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that tells us having contact with nature is good for us and our sense of well-being and I would certainly back that up, but if the research this project undertakes is able to prove that, it will be to the great advantage to everyone. I wish it every success and will be intrigued and excited to read its findings."

The research will take place over six to 12 months and The Good Life Project team are now looking for business organisations who would like to be involved in the research, nominating colleagues to become "Good Life Ambassadors". They would be given full training and a series of interventions to be taken back to the workplace with appropriate resources where they would champion the changes in their working environment. The impact of each intervention will be fed back to The Good Life Project research faculty.

Interventions will include:

  • Different types of wall art depicting the natural environment to measure the difference they make to stress levels within the workplace;
  • Creating an indoor herb garden for employees to tend to and enjoy during downtime to measure emotional impact' and
  • Encouraging outdoor activity at lunchtimes and after work.

Broadcaster and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall endorsed the research project and said: "The Good Life Project is an inspiring one that throws light on a very important subject. It aims to demonstrate something I and many others already believe: that health and wellbeing are intricately bound up with our surroundings, and that a closer connection to the natural environment can improve and enrich our working lives. If we are happier and healthier at work, of course that has huge benefits for the rest of our lives too, so I very much look forward to seeing results of this research and the new directions they could lead us in."

Rob Percival from the Soil Association said: "The Good Life Project is shining a welcome light on the relationship between workplace wellbeing and exposure to the natural world. We know the value of providing employees with healthy, fresh, seasonal food in the workplace, and we look forward to the results of this ground-breaking research, which will provide necessary insights into the additional benefits of fresh air at lunchtime and communal food growing activities. The implications for businesses could be significant."

Rose added: "The response so far from organisations we have approached has been better than we could have imagined. Businesses clearly understand the value of The Good Life Project and being a part of ground-breaking research, which will benefit both employees and employers."

The project is being sponsored commercially by Gabriel Ash, BJ Sheriff and Vigo Presses.

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