One of the latest trends in office design, said to improve well-being and productivity, is biophilic interior design.
We spend a large portion of our waking lives in our places of work, and many of us have little power over the feel or appearance of that space. This is unfortunate because the places we inhabit exert a strong hold over our psychology and our overall well-being. Increasingly, employers are sensitive to the fact that the design of our workspaces impacts not only individual well-being but consequently the productivity of the workforce as a whole.
The Love of Nature
Human beings are instinctively drawn to the natural world, an attraction for which there is a name – biophilia – meaning ‘love of nature’. This affinity reminds us that for the vast majority of our history, human beings interacted with nature on a daily basis. In evolutionary terms, our transition from country, to city, to brightly lit offices has all been in a relative blink of the eye, meaning our living habits have changed, but our longing for the natural world hasn’t.
Biophilic interior design satisfies this desire by bringing the outdoors in, and by cultivating a natural atmosphere in spaces where nature isn’t usually to be found, such as the modern office. In these spaces, there is an increasing need for biophilic design as our workspaces are often detrimental to the health and happiness for the employees who inhabit them.
A recent study found that as many as 47% of workers have no natural light in their work environment, and 55% reported no natural greenery such as plants. Significantly, the same study found that employees in workspaces which incorporated biophilic design were 6% more productive, reported 15% higher levels of well-being than average, and were 15% more creative.
Biophilic Design and Wellbeing
One of the most important elements in fostering individual well-being is the reduction of stress levels. Scientific research has demonstrated that interaction with nature can reduce an individual’s stress level, and, crucially for advocates of biophilic design, symbolic representations of nature can produce almost as significant an impact on an employee as the real thing.
Clearly, nature and symbols of nature exert a restorative effect on human beings, and, when incorporated in the workspace, allow employees to better deal with the day to day stresses of work life.
Bringing the Outside Into Your Office
Biophilic design can be incorporated into the workspace in a number of ways, some more obvious than others. Some examples include choosing green walls, timber cladding, and patterns, colours and textures which are evocative of the natural world. Our team recently created a haven of nature in Cablecraft’s workspace
to encourage a sense of well-being and team collaboration.
Elsewhere, it’s important to be conscious of the positive effects of natural light can have on employee well-being, and allow views to the outside world where possible. If there is little or no natural landscape for you to incorporate into your workspace, then consider creating quiet spaces for your employees to work which mimic the sound and feel of nature in the form of design elements such as living walls.
Finally, you can quite literally bring the natural world into your office by introducing real and artificial plants. Aside from the biophilic benefits plants can bring, they also provide real health benefits by reducing dust and CO2 levels.
What are the advantages of biophilic interior design?
The cynics among you would probably argue that there’s no way that a few changes to your office design could bring real benefits to your workforce, yet studies have shown that Biophilic interior design ideas can make employees 15% happier, healthier and more productive. But is this done?
1. Cleaner Air
Plants are extremely effective at removing toxins from the air and producing clean oxygen as a by-product. In fact, studies have shown that indoor plants can capture and remove toxins such as benzene, hexane and formaldehyde.
While you might argue that air-conditioners and air filters do the same thing, they are simply not as effective as Mother Nature. A report commissioned by the Building Engineering Services found that 70 percent of office workers believe poor quality air has a negative impact on their well-being and productivity. Embracing biophilic interior design can help to keep those worries at bay.
2. A Boost in Productivity
It’s hard to believe that simply introducing greenery into the office can make employees work harder, but that’s exactly what a number of studies have found. Research by Cardiff University found that investing in biophilic interior design will pay off with an increase in productivity of an astounding 15 percent.
Another study found that workers are 18 percent more productive when they have access to natural light and fresh air. These are clearly very impressive gains, particularly when the UK workforce is often criticised for its lack of productivity. Tech giants like Amazon and Google are just two examples of firms that are making the move from sterile offices to inspiring green spaces, embracing the concept of biophilic interior design.
3. Improved Health and Wellbeing
A number of objective studies have found that biophilic interior design in the workplace can make a workforce healthier by boosting mood, reducing stress and having a positive effect on employee well-being. Research suggests that the move to cities over the years has come at a cost, with humans unable to connect to nature or even see the outside world. This creates a lot of additional stress on top of that already caused by our jobs.
By reintroducing the natural element back into our day, biophilic interior design can help to reduce that stress. According to the Office for National Statistics, 137 million days are lost annually to workplace absenteeism in the UK, so any improvement in health and well-being can only be a good thing.
4. Greater Employee Retention
If staff are happy, healthy and productive in the workplace then higher levels of employee retention follow. This is a key concern for many employers, particularly in areas where there are skills shortages. The cost of recruitment coupled with the lost output resulting from the replacement of an experienced member of the team can be a big problem for many organisations. Biophilic interior design can play a part in creating a harmonious workplace that employees want to be in.
5. Enhanced Creativity
A more stimulating workplace allows creativity to flourish, but don’t just take our word for it. A study from Texas A&M University found that people who were surrounded by nature and natural elements were able to solve problems more creatively. Incorporating colour as well as natural finishes in the workplace, through biophilic interior design, is a simple way to achieve this creative boost.
Simple steps to introduce biophilic interior design in your workplace
Embracing biophilic interior design does not have to be expensive. Simple steps you can take include:
• Making the most of your surroundings with large windows, doors and skylights. Even photographs of nature can be beneficial in urban areas.
• Introducing indoor plants is a simple way to improve air quality. Remarkably, if you can’t commit to all that watering, even fake plants have been shown to improve employee wellbeing.
• Think about the quality of light in the office. As a simple rule, the more natural light, the better, but that’s not achievable for everyone. Reducing glare and switching cold light to warm light will reduce discomfort and help employees sleep at night.
• Improving the flow of fresh air will reduce the spread germs of and help to keep people alert.
• Using more natural materials such as wood, stone and natural textiles is a simple way to incorporate nature into your workplace. Even design elements such as leaf motifs and natural artwork can benefit your team.
If you would like to explore the possibility of redesigning your office in-line with the principles of biophilic office design, then please get in touch with the team at Accent on via our contact page, and we’d be more than happy to help.