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Why Your Office Is Beginning to Look Like a Forest

Kegs and pingpong tables are out. Ferns are in.
A staircase leads to four levels inside the Inc. Spheres in Seattle.
Photographer: Mike Kane/Bloomberg

The modern office is starting to look more like a Rainforest Cafe than a place of business. Inc.’s new Seattle headquarters has 40,000 plants. Down the coast, every other floor in Samsung’s two-and-a-half-year-old San Jose office space is a garden. Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. wants all employees in its Hangzhou workplace to be no more than a one-minute walk from an outdoor green space.

In a bid to keep workers happy, productive and, most important, in the office for as long as possible, companies have flocked to all sorts of design trends over the years. Last decade it was kegs and pingpong tables; now Mother Nature is in vogue.