Show Notes: Episode 193 – Nature in the Workplace: Creating Healthy, Vibrant Spaces Where People Thrive (with Stephanie Carlson)
April 22, 2024
Transcript: Episode 194 – How Neurodiversity Impacts Productivity, Culture, and Retention (with Jeff Gibbard and Sarah Ohanesian)
May 6, 2024

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

Stephanie 00:01
Once you bring plants into an interior space, then it changes the whole outlook of that space so that people can enjoy it and live and thrive.

JoDee 00:14
Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we help HR and business leaders embrace joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my friend and co-host Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, also an HR consulting practice.

JoDee 00:41
Our topic today is called refresh your space: the art of bringing nature indoors. In January 2020, we had a JoyPowered® podcast episode called “Art, Culture and Engagement” with my friend and HR consultant and art gallery owner, Jill Lehman.

Susan 01:06
It was, to me it was really eye opening that art can make employees happier, it can even reduce stress. While some people might not even notice the artwork on the wall, for those that do, it can be a big mood booster.

JoDee 01:19
Yeah. And not only does art better the disposition of workers, but it can also provide a competitive advantage for companies. Studies have shown that if a workspace incorporates artwork, workers tend to work faster, are more innovative, and form better bonds with their colleagues.

Susan 01:41
Wow. One of the most important links between art and business is the problem-solving component. Artists tend to look at the world a little differently, and that manifests itself in their work. By hanging that work on our office walls, by considering that art, by opening ourselves up to new perspectives, we can expand our problem-solving abilities.

JoDee 02:02
Our Purple Ink office, which we call “the ink pad,” is filled with art, plants, and bright colors. So many times we have guests in the office who comment on the energy in the room, or the spirit of creativity they feel when they’re in our office. Now, viewing this from a different perspective, I read a November article on LinkedIn, which we will link in our show notes, and it said office works still has negative, several negative effects on both mental and physical health, so organizations should actively search for ways to counteract work-related effects and create a pleasant atmosphere that promotes health at the workplace, improves the social climate, and brings out the best in both employees and employers. One way that has been proven numerous times to enhance health overall, well, well-being, productivity, and even to decrease absenteeism in the office is including more nature in and around the office. So now it’s not only just art, but a piece of nature as well. Research shows that nature relieves stress, makes people think positively, and improves productivity, creativity, and overall health. This is a major insight if you realize that more and more people live in cities, which often lack nature around them, and they may suffer from stress at work and are affected by burnout on an unprecedented scale. You know, I think too, with more people just working from home, I know for me, sometimes I don’t ever leave my house, you know, so I’m not even getting out in any kind of weather. With more nature around, employees could feel more at ease, perform better, and be healthier. In a separate LinkedIn article that was in August 2023, they said nature does the trick, and not only in our free time, but ideally also in the office. A natural environment gives us humans a boost and ensures mental clarity. Regular walks outdoors improves our mood and increases our ability to concentrate and remember things, but nature walks are often difficult to fit into a hectic workday. But we can remedy this by designing our working environment with the closeness to nature in mind, and we bring some these positive effects from the outside to the inside.

Susan 05:04
We all love harmony, and when our rooms are visually coordinated, we feel at ease. With a coherent, naturally inspired room concept, you can take the office to the next level, making a good impression on clients and employees alike. A natural wall design, matching picture absorbers, a privacy screen that blends seamlessly into the surroundings, and natural accents in several places make for a stylish overall look. I gotta be honest, JoDee, the more we talk about this, I’m looking around my little office space and I’m thinking maybe I need to upgrade, you know, get some more nature in here.

JoDee 05:39

Susan 05:39
I have pictures from trips that I’ve been on, but…

JoDee 05:42
Yeah. You have some great art…

Susan 05:45
Oh, thank you.

JoDee 05:46
…in your office. Yeah.

Susan 05:47
Well, I think after reading this, I’m thinking I might need to go a little more nature.

JoDee 05:51
Yeah, I think I do too at my house.

JoDee 05:55
So we invited an expert to join us to learn more about nature in the workspace. Stephanie Carlson founded her biophilic design – we’ll learn more about that in a minute – and landscaping company in 2016 with a mission of designing, building, and creating beautiful, sustainable, happy spaces, both indoors and outdoors. She hopes to energize places where people live, work, play, study, and heal. While raising four children, Stephanie loved teaching them about the joys of gardening, playing outside, and sharing her love of nature. But later, she decided to continue educating people about the benefits of nature and find innovative ways to incorporate nature into any space. Thus, her fifth child, Naturspire, was born. Stephanie worked with our Purple Ink team to create a small living wall. Not only do I love the look of it, but I love the smell of the fresh plants. Welcome, Stephanie. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Stephanie 07:18
Thank you for having me. I can’t wait to tell you how to make a JoyPowered® workplace with plants.

JoDee 07:23
Ah, I love it. So I think our listeners and myself and Susan are interested to know, what is biophilic design?

Stephanie 07:35
So biophilic design is the theory that – not even a theory, it’s proven – that people and plants are one on one, they mean so much to each other. Like, we love nature, plants love us, we give out carbon dioxide, they give off oxygen. And so it’s like a, it’s like a union that you can’t live without. And so once you bring plants into an interior space, or bring nature into an interior space, then it changes the whole outlook of that space so that people can enjoy it and live and thrive. And, you know, we spend 95% of our time indoors, working at work or in hospitals or inside cleaning house, whatever it is, we don’t get outside as much as we’d like to. And the, you know, the combination of biophilic design is all about people, humans, and nature thriving together.

JoDee 08:34
95%! I have to tell you, I know I fall into that category, but I am surprised it’s that high for, you know, on average.

Stephanie 08:46
It is that high. So I was surprised, too, which is why we get more involved in this, because we thought if we’re spending that much time indoors… and back in the day, there was the sick building syndrome, so how do we make our spaces healthier and happier and, and do more for employees, not even our employees, but our children at home? Like, what do we create, what kind of space do we create that allows us to be outdoors inside? So that is, so biophilic design really came into fruition probably about, like, in the 80s. And it was just kind of a theory kind of tossed around at that time, and you know, nobody really knew that plants were so important. But I mean, we learned in biology class that they give off oxygen, and they thrive on our carbon dioxide. So, you know, there’s nothing to support it or to prove that that was a fact except what we learned in biology class. So now there’s actual studies that have been done with Terrapin Green and with other people that have said let’s see if this really works. NASA sent a snake plant up to outer space in the 80s and they proved that the Sansevieria is one of your the best plants you could ever have in your home. It’s super easy to take care of it and it gives off – it thrives on our toxins and it gives off the oxygen that we need to survive and be healthy with.

JoDee 10:08
Yeah. Interesting.

Susan 10:10
What are the benefits of adding nature to the interior design of a workspace?

Stephanie 10:16
Well, first of all, I would say there’s a lot of different ways to do it. We prefer doing, you know, live plants, because then you get the true benefits of having the live plant in the space, and basically, it just keeps the, purifies the air. Having all that greenery in your area, it’s, instead of having, you know, a gray cubicle or something, where you have workspace that’s not, you know, it’s beautiful, it’s nice, but that missing element is the plants that purify the air. So that’s one of them. But the other one is just walking in and seeing some greenery and seeing the nature and being around the nature, it makes people happier, healthier, they want to come to work. Now there is a trend to doing these outdoor amenity spaces where people can go out and have, you know, coffee in the morning or meet outside or be surrounded by plants and planters, and it’s part of the interior, interior design now, it’s not just something that was, like, an afterthought.

JoDee 11:18
Yeah. And what are some ways that you have done that specifically, through – well, for you personally, and through your company, Naturspire?

Stephanie 11:29
So we started with interior plantscapes and just kind of knocking on doors saying, hey, do you guys want some plants for your office, it will just make people so much happier to be here., and there are studies that prove that. So you know, so, the whole idea is that you create this space, you have your furniture, you have your carpet, you have your paint, but when you add that greenery, it gives you an extra pop of happiness, just an extra pop of, like, I really want to be here, this is great, my employer truly cares about me. So people can bring their own plants, we can, you know, a lot of times people will bring their own plants, and it’s just like kind of pet-friendly. It’s plant-friendly.

Susan 12:12
I love that. So what if I don’t have a green thumb – and that truly is speaking for me because I don’t have a green thumb – and I don’t feel like I have time to take care of plants?

Stephanie 12:22
I believe that everyone has a green thumb. So I love training and educating and helping people to learn how to take care of their own plants. And a lot of it is based on consistency. Like, you don’t have to pay attention to it for a couple of weeks, and you’re good, but you gotta make sure you water it and care for it and fertilize it and things like that every once in a while. So you could actually put that in your calendar as just a thing that you do if you want to do it yourself. Or there’s – we always offer maintenance, I mean, we will take care of anybody’s plants just to keep everything looking nicely so that they don’t have to worry about it. They can just enjoy it.

JoDee 12:59
That’s the way I like it, when someone else takes care of it. And Stephanie, what is your dream for Naturspire in the future? I know you’re working with clients all over the country now, what other dreams do you have?

Stephanie 13:17
It’s been kind of fun. And I, you know, when we started, you know, seven years ago, I wasn’t sure which direction this was going to go, because I just really wanted to do something that was beneficial to people, that would make people happy, and create spaces where they really wanted to be and wanted – and they could thrive. So you know, like I mentioned, we started just doing kind of some knocking on some doors, and hey, guys, want plants. And then we started working with architects. And now we’re doing exterior landscapes. And basically my goal is to just create beautiful spaces, at the end of the day, where people can relax and enjoy their lives, whether it’s at work, or whether it’s at home, you know, just creating something unique and different. Live plants on walls, we will create this whole system where people can walk in and see this beautiful plant space and just enjoy it, do selfies, do Instagram photos, just, like, have fun with it. And then we’ve done, you know, basic, you know, add plants to a space, make sure it is a part of the interior design. So we’re working with a couple companies now that, you know, have had all the furnishings, everything else, and they just need something more. And, you know, this is, like, kind of a furnishing, but it’s enhanced furnishings. It’s just something that adds a little bit more space to make it, you know, so much more inviting for customers, for clients, for your employees, for your owners, literally for everyone. So, you know, we do the moss walls, so that’s a way to add greenery without having to care for it. It’s all preserved plants that were alive at one time. And we take that as an interior design technique and we can pretty much do logo walls, moss walls. Anything that is – adds nature to space without maintenance, which you girls might like, you ladies might like. And we do artificial, too. So occasionally, there was a situation where we did a project down in Bloomington, for the University of Indiana, where, for student housing, because you don’t want live stuff in there, that’s, like, way too hard to take care of, but they wanted greenery, they wanted the kids to come in, and enjoy the space, the leasing center is beautiful. It’s got, we’ve got a ton of artificial greenery in it, and it just looks amazing.

JoDee 15:32
Yeah, nice.

Susan 15:34
So Stephanie, How could our listeners reach out to you if they’re interested in learning more about this topic?

Stephanie 15:39
They can always call me. I’m very accessible because I love teaching and sharing about how different ways that people can add, add greenery to their lives, their space, or you know, their exterior locations. Yeah, you can call me directly on my cell phone at 317-414-5607. I really love what nature does for people, so I would love to help you figure out how to incorporate it into your space. And we have a website at That’s N-A-T-U-R – no E – S-P-I-R-E. I’m Swedish, and that’s the Swedish spelling of nature, N-A-T-U-R, so remember that. And so the other way is to just look us up on, you know, follow us on Instagram, @_naturspire, and you can reach out to us on Facebook. There’s so many ways you can contact us. And we are doing work in Dallas and Chicago, we did some things in Knoxville, so we’re all over the place. We’re based in Indianapolis, Carmel, Indiana, at the Indiana, Indiana Design Center, but you know, we would love, we love nature, so much, we want to bring it to you and help you figure out how to incorporate into your lives.

JoDee 16:54
Yeah, that’s excellent. What was your last JoyPowered® moment at work?

Stephanie 17:01
I think every day we have JoyPowered® moments, because we bring joy into spaces that people never would have dreamed would have looked so amazing when we leave. And it’s been kind of really exciting when we go to a space and we have this blank wall and we put up a living wall or a moss wall or something pretty incredible, and the joy that we see on people’s faces, they’re so happy, and that’s JoyPowered® to me every day.

JoDee 17:30
Love it. Well, thank you for joining us. And I feel inspired not only to see our plants that you put in our office, but to think about having more in my own house as well, too.

Stephanie 17:45
We’ll take care of you JoDee, you don’t have to worry about it. We’ll keep those babies alive or train you how to do it.

JoDee 17:53
You – I’d probably need the maintenance service. Well, thank you for joining us, Stephanie.

Stephanie 18:01
Thank you so much for inviting me and I just love talking about plants and joy, so what a good combination.

JoDee 18:07
Yes, perfect.

Susan 18:08
Thank you so much.

Susan 18:10
JoDee, I found that so interesting. You know, it’s ironic to me that we’re talking about this topic today, about how important it is to get nature inside, because I’m going on a nature walk today. First time in my entire life. I’m going to, a community center here has organized a nature walk, so it’s going to be, like, 30 degrees, I’m going to bundle up, but I’m going to get out there and, and embrace it.

JoDee 18:31
I love it. I love it. You’ll have to share with us how it went and if it inspired you or helped you find joy in the middle of the day.

Susan 18:43
Will do. So JoDee, it’s time for our listener question. The following question came from one of our listeners who provided us feedback on a prior episode. Please know that we welcome questions anytime, anywhere from our listeners. Here’s the question. “How can I network while still employed in a way that will not endanger my current position?”

JoDee 19:04
Well, I love this question, because of course, I just wrote with my co-author, Christine Burrows, a book on JoyPowered® networking, which is maybe how they came up with this question, because we did a podcast on that as well, too. But I thought it was interesting, which I think is very common, that it sounds like she’s networking for a new position. Right?

Susan 19:32

JoDee 19:33
Which I think a lot of people see as a time when I really need to get my networking act together, put my networking shoes on to look for something new. So I would encourage people to be networking all the time so that you keep up that network of people who might be able to help you find something new. But I also found it fascinating, you know, it used to be on LinkedIn, when we updated our LinkedIn page, it was kind of a sign that, oh, they must be looking for a job, they, they updated their LinkedIn, which now of course you don’t, that doesn’t have to go out to people every time you update it, so that makes sense. But I just totally think networking in general is good for everyone, so I don’t think your employer would necessarily know you’re looking for a job just because you’re putting that out there more often. Now, if you’re, it could be you’re working in your field, in your association or at a conference, but you might also just be networking more locally, or in places where you’re looking for a new role that your employer might not be at, right? Or they might not be at some of those bigger conferences. So I’d say I wouldn’t even think of networking as an impediment to thinking my employer would find out about it, right, but just enjoy the benefits of networking for what they are, whether you’re looking for a new role or not. What do you think, Susan?

Susan 21:29
Yeah, I appreciate all of your advice there. One of my kids, when he was looking for work, he’s like, oh, man, I got, I know, Mom, you always say I should be networking, now I’m really getting serious about it. Well, the fact is, ever since, I’m gonna say a couple jobs ago, he has taken on the, my belief that you need to always be developing new relationships. So now if it gets called by a headhunter, he takes the conversation, he, even though he’s not interested in moving, he takes a conversation, when he has that opportunity to go somewhere, he does connect with people afterwards on LinkedIn. He has finally got it that you always want to be making new contacts, new friends, whether you’re looking for a job or not. So for our listener, I think that, you know, if your employer sees that you are, you know, attending events, and that you are, that they happen to be following you on LinkedIn, see that you keep growing your network, I would hope that they would not be threatened by that. Instead, I think that they would be glad that you are immersed in the world. So don’t let it hold you back. I think that’s the bottom line.

JoDee 22:28
Right. I agree. One other thing I will add to that, Susan is, of course, I love networking to make new contacts, but it can also be refreshing some of your relationships from previous contacts, right? So maybe…

Susan 22:45

JoDee 22:45
…people you used to work with who could serve as a reference for you, or maybe, you know, will have additional contacts in the position that you’re looking for. So go back and see, you know, who, who is in my network that I haven’t stayed in touch with, and it might be a good time to reach out to them as well.

Susan 23:08
I love to hear from people that I’ve worked with years and years ago. It’s just delightful to me. So go make, go delight somebody else and do that.

JoDee 23:16
Yes, same here. Next is our in the news segment. In a fall 2023 study conducted by Empress Insights by the Coven – they’re a coworking space centered on the experiences of historically underserved communities – they found that 30% of employers have not responded meaningfully to ageism in the workplace.

Susan 23:45
40% of employers do not have policies in place to support older workers.

JoDee 23:51
25% of workers are dissatisfied with their company’s support of workers over the age of 55.

Susan 24:01
36% of workers over the age of 55 do not feel positively regarded by younger employees.

JoDee 24:07
Since we happen to fall in these categories I think…

Susan 24:13
Yes we do.

JoDee 24:13
I want to give some advice. So based on that, I recommend that you consider how are you addressing ageism in the workplace, if at all? What benefits might you be offering that appeal to older workers and/or what policies might you have or want to have in your workspace that also talks about ageism, or maybe just diversity in general, right? Generally, older workers seek support from employers on retirement preparation, flexible work arrangements, and accommodations for employees facing health challenges. Of course, those are good for all employees, but might be a little bit more in tune to people in the workforce who are older.

JoDee 25:09
Thanks for listening today. Please tune in next time and make it a JoyPowered® day.

Susan 25:15
Thank you. If you would like SHRM recertification credit for listening to this podcast, please visit You’ll find an evaluation of the podcast and once you complete the evaluation, you will see the SHRM recertification credit code and a link to a proof of participation certificate. Again, that’s Thank you for listening, and thanks for your dedication to the HR profession.

JoDee 25:44
If you liked the show, please tell a few friends about us and let us know what you thought by leaving us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts. You can find more information on our podcast, our books, our blogs, and more at We’re @JoyPowered on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook and you can send us an email at Make it a JoyPowered® day.

Emily Miller
Emily Miller
Emily works behind the scenes at JoyPowered, helping to edit and publish the books, producing the podcast, and running the website and social media.

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