The Rise of Biophilic Design in the Workplace
As more companies become aware of the fact that a well-designed workspace can have a positive impact on the employees working in it, they are devoting more time and money to designing the space that works for them. Whilst certain workplace features will be specific to each company, one growing trend is suitable for each and every firm, no matter the size, location or budget: Biophilic Design.
What Is Biophilic Design?
The concept of biophilic design is to connect us to the wider world, and it focusses on our innate attraction to nature and natural processes. There is a suggestion that we need nature at a fundamental and genetic level, and so biophilic design is important in the places we live and work.
The origins can be traced back to Edward O. Wilson, who coined the term “Biophilia” (literally meaning “love of nature”) in his 1984 book of the same name. Wilson believed that humans thrive when they are in close contact with nature, and suffer when they are without it.
This notion that green and open spaces provide a wealth of benefits for employees is not a new one. Wealthy 19th century mill and factory owners would create parks nearby to ensure their workforce had access to clean air and open spaces when not working, and this philosophy has continued into the post-industrial age.
The Science Behind Biophilic Design
A 2014 research paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that the presence of plants inside a building increases occupants’ wellbeing by up to 40%, and studies have highlighted that adding biophilic elements, such as potted plants, to a workspace can reduce absenteeism and increase productivity. Rachel and Steven Kaplan (1989) agree that contact with the natural environment can have a psychologically restorative effect on people. The positive impact of contact with nature is most prominent in stressful situations, such as workplaces or hospitals, and even being able to see nature, through your office window for example, can have a positive effect.
What Are The Benefits of Biophilic Design?
There are many benefits to biophilic design, or having biophilic elements in your space. The main benefits relate to employee wellbeing, both physical and mental (click here to read more about why employee wellbeing is important).
- Cleaner Air – Whilst many modern offices are built with high-tech air conditioning and air filtering units, there is no substitute for nature. The introduction of plants in the space will result in cleaner air. Plants use the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and convert it to oxygen.
- Improved health – Biophilic elements help put us in a better frame of mind and reduce stress, and coupled with the increased air quality, it’s no surprise that the overall health of your workforce will improve.
- Increased productivity – A recent study carried out by Exeter University found that employees were 15% more productive when their workspaces were filled with just a few plants. Increased health amongst the workforce, in general, often leads to increased productivity (click here to read more about increasing productivity in the workplace).
How Can I Incorporate Biophilic Design Into My Space?
Biophilic design is not just for huge, corporate conglomerates with lots of cash to burn. Whether you have an office of 2 or 2,000 employees, you can find a way to incorporate biophilic design into your workspace:
- Introduce plants – this is the most simple and basic way to incorporate biophilic elements in your space. Either dedicate a shelf or two in each office for potted plants, hang planters from the ceiling, or if budget is your main concern, allow your employees to bring plants from home to keep on their desks. Even artificial plants can have some of the same positive effects.
- Introduce natural materials, such as wood, marble, cork and different stones, into the design.
- Remove the curtains, or at least let your team control the blinds to their window. Letting in natural light can help with the headaches and eye strains caused by harsh, artificial lighting.
- Use natural colour schemes throughout the space. Ditch the bright, unnaturally coloured walls and instead opt for neutral earth tones, such as greens and browns. Increasing green accents, in particular, has been found to introduce motivation, productivity and enthusiasm in the workforce.
- Can you incorporate a “living wall”? The popularity of living walls, otherwise known as vertical gardens, has skyrocketed. Not only do they provide a space with an impressive statement, they boast the positive health benefits of all other types of biophilic design.
For specialist insurance group, Beazley Management, the inclusion of biophilic elements was vital in their new Birmingham offices. The upper level of their building boasts an impressive roof terrace, and both floors have plants throughout. Click here to read the full case study.
Zaha Hadid Architects
For Zaha Hadid Architects, based in Clerkenwell, their main reception and breakout area is painted in a variety of different shades of green, which has been known to have positive effects on productivity and enthusiasm. Click here to read the full case study.
Read more about the importance of employee wellbeing here.