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The National Institutes of Health recently reported that 1 out of 5 adults in the U.S. struggle with chronic or severe pain. In 2010, American businesses lost between $297 and $335 billion due to lost productivity attributable to pain. Horticultural therapy provides a cost-effective solution to help employees with pain improve their performance at work, while building coping skills they can transfer to everyday life.
There’s a difference between horticultural therapy and simply interacting with a garden, but nonetheless, we know that exposure to green spaces helps to relieve stress and improve mood. A vegetable garden in the workplace gives employees the opportunity to use all of their senses and take a break from the mental work of the office. Participants in gardening programs practice mindful engagement with a beautiful and productive environment.
Gardening brings together folks from different departments and levels in an egalitarian setting. While an executive may not have any experience gardening, an entry-level employee might. The garden creates opportunities for intergenerational and interdepartmental learning. Structured social engagement in the garden also provides employees with pain a time to get out of their own heads and experience the social support of a like-minded group.
When pain can’t be directly treated, patients are encouraged to practice active, adaptive coping strategies. This can be something as simple (but difficult!) as ignoring the pain, which is much easier when one is actively participating in a group activity. The most automatic strategy is to simply endure through the day, but this can lead to a lot of time spent only halfway engaged with work. Providing a chance to practice relaxation techniques in a supportive atmosphere can help employees with pain to feel valued and recognized.
Managing pain is no simple task, and usually requires balancing many approaches to cope with its physical, mental, and social impacts. Gardening provides a structure in which employees with pain can practice their own strategies without the pressures of the typical office environment.
Green City Growers offers raised beds at three different heights, which can make a garden accessible to people with varying levels of physical ability. Guided by our friendly farmers, participants in our employee wellness programs build community and a sense of place. And for employees who struggle with chronic pain, the garden can improve their quality of life while promoting satisfaction and engagement at work.
Employee gardens are an increasing trend to office parks, and can provide many benefits of traditional wellness including community-building and talent development — at lower costs. Download our employee wellness garden guide and case study for more information