The past several years have seen an evolution in the office environment. It’s no longer just a place to work; it’s a space that impacts our productivity, wellbeing, and the planet. Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of a harmonious workspace that integrates the healing power of nature.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the remarkable benefits of nature at work and creating a biophilic office or workspace that not only enhances your work life but also contributes to a greener, more sustainable future. Plus, stay tuned for an exciting announcement at the end about our upcoming e-learning course, Nature at Work, launching today!
Table of Contents
What is biophillic office design?
Biophilic office design refers to the integration of natural elements and experiences into the workspace to promote a connection between occupants and the natural environment. The term “biophilia” means “love of life or living systems,” and was popularized by the biologist Edward O. Wilson, who suggested that humans have an innate affinity for nature.
Biophilic office design is grounded in the idea that our evolutionary history, which largely took place in natural settings, has hardwired us to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. When we’re surrounded by natural elements, we tend to experience improved well-being, reduced stress, increased creativity, and enhanced cognitive function.
The benefits of bringing nature to work
1. Boosted Creativity & Productivity:
Research shows that incorporating natural elements into the workspace can significantly boost productivity. When we’re surrounded by greenery, natural light, and natural materials, we tend to be more focused, creative, and engaged in our tasks.
- The Human Spaces Report found that workers in environments with natural elements, like greenery and sunlight, reported a 15% higher level of creativity than those without. (1)
- A study by the University of Exeter found that employees in green offices with plants were 15% more productive than those in lean environments. (2)
2. Enhanced Well-being & Reduced Stress:
Our well-being is closely tied to our environment. A biophilic office considers the physical and mental health of employees. It offers spaces for relaxation and rejuvenation, reduces stress levels, and promotes a sense of calm.
- Research published in the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives” found that employees with access to natural light had a 58% reduction in symptons of depression. (3)
- A study published in “Biophilic Cities Journal” showed gazing at office plants can reduce stress levels. (4)
3. Reduced Sick Days and Absenteeism:
Incorporating biophilic design elements in office spaces has more than just aesthetic and psychological advantages; it can directly impact employee attendance.
- A notable study titled “Healthy Offices” conducted by Wageningen University in collaboration with CBRE Netherlands delved into the effects of such designs on workplace absenteeism. Their findings revealed a compelling statistic: by merely introducing elements that mimic or represent nature into office environments, absenteeism can be reduced by as much as 10%. (5)
4. Improved Job Satisfaction and Employee Retention:
Job satisfaction and employee retention are vital metrics for any organization, influencing everything from productivity to company morale. Interestingly, the physical environment of the workplace plays a crucial role in shaping these metrics.
- According to a study published in the Journal of Corporate Real Estate by Vischer in 2008, specific environmental factors in office spaces, particularly the inclusion of natural elements, wield significant influence on how employees feel about their jobs. These satisfied employees are more likely to remain loyal to a company, there’s a strong correlation between biophilic design features and higher retention rates. (6)
5. Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility
A biophilic office isn’t just good for employees; it’s also great for the planet. Sustainable practices, such as using recycled materials, energy-efficient systems, and waste reduction strategies, are often integral to biophilic design.
- The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) reported that incorporating biophilic elements like natural lighting and indoor plants resulted in an average 25% reduction in energy consumption.
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation highlights that companies embracing sustainable practices often reduce waste generation and contribute to the circular economy.
5 tips for creating a biophillic office space
So, how can you bring these benefits into your own workspace either at home or the office? Here are some practical steps to consider:
1. Incorporate Natural Light:
Why it’s essential: Natural light has been shown to improve mood, increase productivity, and regulate circadian rhythms, which can lead to better sleep and overall health.
Implementation Tips: If redesigning or choosing a new workspace, prioritize those with large windows or open spaces. For existing spaces, consider retrofitting with larger windows, skylights, or even solar tubes to bring daylight into central areas. Manage direct sunlight with blinds or shades to prevent glare, which can cause eye strain and discomfort.
2. Integrate Indoor Plants:
Why it’s essential:
- Beyond their aesthetic appeal, indoor plants can improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen. They also have psychological benefits, reducing stress and increasing feelings of well-being.
- Choose plants that are suited for indoor environments and consider the lighting conditions of specific areas. Plants like snake plants, pothos, and Chinese evergreens are hardy and require minimal maintenance. For a bolder statement, green walls or vertical gardens can be a visually stunning way to incorporate nature.
3. Use Natural Materials and Textures:
Why it’s essential:
- Natural materials can evoke sensory memories of nature and provide a tactile connection to the environment. They often exude warmth and authenticity, creating inviting spaces.
- When selecting furniture or architectural finishes, opt for materials like reclaimed wood, bamboo, natural stone, or cork. These materials can be used for flooring, wall paneling, furniture, or even decorative elements, seamlessly blending design and function.
4. Create Nature-Inspired Spaces:
Why it’s essential:
- Spaces that echo natural environments can create feelings of shelter, openness, or coziness, mirroring the diverse settings we encounter in nature.
- Consider design principles that mirror natural landscapes. Open spaces can emulate clearings or meadows, encouraging collaboration, while smaller, more intimate spaces can mimic cozy alcoves or nooks found in nature, providing areas for focus or relaxation.
5. Incorporate The Colour Green:
Why it’s essential: The color green evokes feelings of abundance, refreshment, and peace. It’s the color that helps us feel rested and secure, and it creates a soothing atmosphere that promotes focus and creativity. The color green symbolizes growth, renewal, and life. It’s a dominant color in nature that brings to mind the vibrant shades of forests and meadows, the freshness of leaves, and the tranquility of landscapes.
When incorporating green, it’s important to consider the shade and the amount of color you use. Too much of a vibrant green might be overwhelming, while muted tones can be more calming and easier to integrate. Also, consider the psychological effects of green on your team. For example, a creative team might benefit from brighter, more energizing greens, whereas a finance team might appreciate more subdued, calming greens.
Remember, the key is balance. You want to create an office environment that feels fresh and lively without being distracting or overstimulating.
Announcing ‘Nature at Work’ - our new e-learning course
Are you ready to take your workspace to the next level? Interested in harnessing the power of nature to boost productivity, enhance well-being, and contribute to a more sustainable future? We’ve got exciting news for you!
We launched our brand-new e-learning course today, Nature at Work. This course is your guide to creating a workspace that not only maximizes your potential but also makes a positive impact on the planet. Learn how to design a biophilic office, incorporate eco-conscious practices, and empower your team to thrive in a nature-inspired environment.
Lesson 1: Introduction to Nature’s Influence on Work
- Discussing the scientific research behind the positive impact of nature on well-being, productivity, and creativity.
- Exploring how our connection to nature can enhance our work experiences.
- Case studies of companies that have integrated nature into their work environments and witnessed notable improvements.
Lesson 2: Biophilic Design & Nature Scenes
- Defining biophilic design and its principles, including natural light, nature scenes, and natural materials.
- Exploring the impact of biophilic design strategies on our physiology
- Sharing practical strategies for implementing biophilic design, including incorporating plants, improving access to natural light, and designing spaces that mimic natural environments.
Lesson 3: Green Spaces & Plants
- Explore the effect of potted plants in the office environment
- Providing guidance on how to create indoor green spaces to promote employee well-being and health
- Test your knowledge – is there such a thing as ‘too many’ plants? Do fake plants have the same effect as real plants?
Guest Speaker Emma Terrell
- The Urban Botanist on office plant care
Lesson 4: Nature-Inspired Work Practices at Home and Work
- Explore the long-lasting effects of outdoor exercise and forest walks on your health and wellbeing
- Review the health impacts of outdoor and indoor gardening as stress-reduction and health-boosting practices
- Learn how to practice mindfulness with plants and in nature
Lesson 5: Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility
- Discuss the importance of sustainability in the workplace and its impact on the environment
- Highlight the benefits of embracing sustainable practices, such as cost savings and improved brand reputation.
- Showcase an example of a company that has successfully implemented sustainability initiatives, including energy-efficient practices, waste reduction strategies, and eco-friendly policies.
Join us in embracing nature’s power, and let’s transform your workspace into a hub of productivity, well-being, and sustainability. Sign up to our newsletter to get updates direct to your inbox plus exclusive discounts!
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- [Vischer, J.C. (2008). Towards an environmental psychology of workspace: How people are affected by environments for work. Journal of Corporate Real Estate, 10(4), 204-218.]
- [Human Spaces (2015). The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace. Interface.]
- Nieuwenhuis, M., Knight, C., Postmes, T., & Haslam, S. A. (2014, September 1). Why plants in the office make us more productive. Cardiff University.
- Pun, V. C., Manjourides, J., & Suh, H. (2017). Association of ambient air pollution with depressive and anxiety symptoms in older adults: Results from the NSHAP study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(3), 342–348.
- Beatley, T. (2017). Biophilic Cities and Healthy Societies. Urban Planning, 2(4), 1.
- [CBRE Netherlands (2016). Healthy Offices: Research into the influence of the workplace on the health, well-being and performance of office workers. Wageningen University & Research.]