“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” — Aristotle
I don’t know about you, but when I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery, I feel tranquil. A sense of peace takes over me as the stress and tensions of life drift away.
I get the impression I’m not alone in my longing to be immersed in nature. In fact, scientific literature demonstrates that the human race has an innate desire to connect with the natural environment – it’s called biophilia. .
As we evolve and distance ourselves from nature, our need to reconnect with it becomes greater. This is especially true in urban areas. The solution? Well, Stephen Kellert, a professor at Yale, described biophilic design as the key “to our diminishing contact with nature,” stating that it “involves creating spaces that incorporate natural elements.”
This practice has been commonplace in homes for a long time; and more recently, it’s been gaining popularity in the workplace.
A study titled the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace polled 7,600 employees across 16 countries. The findings demonstrated that people who work in spaces with natural features reported 15% higher levels of overall wellbeing. Furthermore, the respondents expressed feeling 6% more productive and 15% more creative at work.
Despite these statistics, disappointingly few organizations add natural elements to their workspaces.
47% of companies don’t have access to natural light, while 58% don’t have any living plants in their work environments.
Salary and employee benefits aren’t the only drawing cards anymore; prospective employees want a workplace they enjoy going to every day. In fact, according to the same study, one-third of people deem office design as an important factor involved in the decision to work somewhere.
Given the importance and competitiveness of attracting skilled employees, business owners are taking note.
The Look, Sound, and Feel of Biophilic Ddesign
So, what should an organization consider when making changes to office design? Whether undergoing a large-scale redesign, building a space from the ground up, or simply adding touches of nature to an already completed space, there are a few key areas to focus on:
- Windows. Design the space to maximize the sunlight and natural views coming in
- Greenery. Potted plants are a great start, but don’t stop there; living walls and flower gardens make a stunning impact
- Form and patterns. Integrate naturally found patterns and forms, such as honeycomb or leaf outlines
- Air. Provide operable windows when possible. If this isn’t an option, ensure proper air flow
- Water. Add a water feature. The appearance and sound of water elicit feelings of serenity
- Tone/texture. Use varying wood grains, concrete, and brick. Paint walls and choose textiles using colors found in nature
- Physical connection. If space is available, create an outdoor sanctuary employees can retreat to (rooftop patio or staff garden, as examples)
In many instances, implementing each of these suggestions isn’t realistic due to financial or space constraints. Thankfully, studies show that being exposed to depictions of nature provides similar benefits to having direct contact with it. So, add as many of the features as possible, and let artwork do the rest
Benefits of Biophilic Design
We’ve covered the principles of biophilia and how to design an office with these in mind, but why go to all the effort? What tangible positive impact will these steps have?
First, the mental benefits to those who work in nature-focused offices are worth noting. When a person’s surroundings are congruent with their biological desires, the following results occur:
- Stress levels decline
- Motivation increases
- Creativity flows
- Ability to concentrate improves
Furthermore, physical improvements also take place, including speedier recovery times after sickness and fewer stress related illnesses. If all that isn’t enough to convince people that biophilic design is worth the investment, think about running an organization where employee’s quality of life improves – as a direct result of the environment they work in.
Any opportunity to create harmony in ourselves seems like the right thing to do – benefiting every aspect of life from our health to the work we produce.