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Inclusive swag: Team plants

Team plants hero image featuring Monstera deliciosa

I’m a plant-killer. I’m not just any old “bought a ficus and it didn’t work out” plant killer. I was fired from one of my first jobs because I neglected the office plants.

So why would I, a person who couldn’t remember to keep plants alive, buy plants for everyone on my team?

It started as a nice way to decorate. We’d moved from a set of cozy offices to a row of desks in an open office space. I wanted a way to bring some visual unity to the team, so I picked up a dozen plants, a bag of potting mix, and some terracotta pots. Several team members later, I have a set of lessons learned on team plants.

For your existing team, potting plants is a bonding experience. Your team literally gets its hands dirty. And since you’re all working together, assembly-line style, the plants are a communal effort.

When new team members join, the plant on their desk is an immediate symbol of belonging. It’s not another thing with the company logo on it or an ill-fitting t-shirt. It’s a welcome.

The plants are a responsibility. Between vacations and research trips, our team spends a lot of time away from our desks. That means reaching out to find a plant-carer while you’re away – or even more lovely: the team watches out for each other’s plants. See someone’s plant wilting? Give it a bit of water. Caring for each other’s plants is a form of caring for each other.

The plants grow over time. Just as our team grows and changes, the plants we’ve carried from one office to another change as well. As each plant grows it’s a visual reminder of the way each team member has developed (but don’t read too much into somebody’s plant dying, just go out and buy them a new plant).

Woman holding a plant in her hand

Top 3 office plant picks

  1. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) – just about any pothos is great, but my team’s found serious success with Silver Satin Pothos. These plants have a slightly furred, deep-teal leaves, with gray speckles. They’re gorgeous and they stand up well to neglect.
  2. Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) These lovelies reduce indoor air pollution, put out runners that you can grow into entirely new plants, and are very happy at office (upper 60’s) temperatures. Search for Spider Plants.
  3. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum). This is the perfect plant for forgetful owners. Without water they start to droop, but with a little refresher they pop back to life the same day. Perfect for anyone who needs a visual reminder to keep a plant alive. And they look great with and without flowers. Search for Peace Lilies.

Worst office plants

  1. Orchids. They look nice for awhile, then you’re left with a bunch of leaves that might never flower again.
  2. Air plants seem low-maintenance, but it turns out you have to soak them in water to make sure they stay alive. Way too messy.
  3. Succulents grow beautifully in the foggy mornings and sunlit days of the California coast, but introducing them to your office is a recipe for early plant deaths.

Need more ideas for inclusive swag or gifts? Check out Inclusive swag for diverse teams

By Abi Jones

Abi Jones is the UX Manager for Imaging & Diagnostics in Google Health. She leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers and designers focused on using artificial intelligence to assist in diagnosing cancer and preventing blindness.

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