Making the most of their break to do a bit of gardening, planting, watering, weeding…would help reduce employee stress. On the other side of the Atlantic and in France, this trend is well established. In brief:
Straight from the USA, “corporate gardens” are gradually taking root in European companies. In France, they are increasingly numerous, springing up on company rooftops, balconies or in their gardens. Getting soil on your hands to then stand back and enjoy the fruits of your labour is indeed a particularly relaxing activity. In the United States, the phenomenon is so entrenched they talk about gardening therapy. Toyota, PepsiCo, Kohl, Google, Yahoo and many others encourage their employees to devote part of their break to gardening. According to a study conducted in Oregon in 2011, working in an environment linked to nature would improve staff performance and can reduce absenteeism by 10%.
Cédric Jules, co-founder of Macadam Gardens, a start-up company specialised in urban kitchen gardens based in Toulouse: “For the company, the kitchen garden can have a dual purpose: the kitchen garden can be productive (to supply the canteen, for example), but it can also be seen from a corporate culture and relaxation point of view. Of course the one doesn’t rule out the other. ”
In Belgium, although associations like the Lateral Thinking Factory support this type of initiative, there are not many of them. “However, it is definitely possible. In 2013, we conducted a study for the IBGE on the development of urban agriculture in Brussels and identified a whole set of sites that could be used for this” Michael Moradiellos, the company’s founder explains.
A lot of companies are put off by the structure of their building. A mistake according to Cédric Jules: “Flat roof, garden, terrace…. everything is possible. Great projects can be designed even on small surface areas. ”
Another brake: pollution. “But people are wrong, Cédric Jules explains. In the city, pollution is mainly from heavy metals that don’t rise more than 5 metres from the ground. High up, there’s no pollution risk.” And Michael Moradiellos adds: “Crops can also be grown indoors, using resources like heat, canteen leftovers or even black water. Furthermore, this improves air quality in the building. ”
Finally, in our chilly country, the weather is another discouragement. Cédric Jules : “The quality of the harvests depends on sunshine. Even in a temperate climate, all kinds of fruit and vegetables can be grown: you just need to select the right ones. ”
He isn’t letting himself be disheartened though: “Over the last few years we have seen a real renewed interest in gardening. Food scandals are also playing their part: more than ever, people are concerned about what there is on their plate. Corporate kitchen gardens have a bright future ahead.” Here’s the proof: some pioneering companies are trying it out, like IBGE, which has had a kitchen garden for several years now at its headquarters in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert.