Many people work in dark, air-conditioned offices surrounded by skyscrapers in bustling cities. No wonder they feel disconnected from nature!
Studies show that this disengagement with the natural environment reduces productivity, causes stress and even harms health.
The growing trend of biophilic design seeks to reintroduce nature into the workplace to help to improve well-being, and to create a pleasanter and a more attractive environment.
“Biophilia” literally means “love of life.” The American biologist Edward O. Wilson thought that “people have an innate desire to be connected to nature,” so he wrote a book about this phenomenon.¹
This inspired business owners to begin a quest to see how biophilia could be incorporated in the workplace. Ways to introduce the natural environment into offices are only limited by your imagination.
Here are five small steps you can take to increase your employees’ connection with nature.
1. Introduce Natural Light
When asked about their number-one request for office design, most employees wanted natural light.²
Artificial light can cause headaches and eyestrain, and it often looks dim and gloomy, making the business environment unattractive.
Natural light improves employees’ health by regulating sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, as well as by brightening the interior.
There are several ways to introduce natural light into the workplace, including:
· placing enclosed spaces at the center of the floor plan
· using glass modular walls to separate rooms
· seating people near windows.
Hold walking meetings in the fresh air to get employees out of the office, and stimulate creativity.
2. Add Plants and Flowers
Simply placing plants in the office improves productivity by 15 percent, according to Richard Van Hooijdonk.com.³
Greenery enhances the look of the office and helps the well-being of workers by removing dust, mold and CO2 levels. Plants also absorb sound, reducing the irritating effects of noise distraction in the office.
Include plants in the office space by dotting large pot plants around the workplace to help block off areas, and by placing attractive smaller pot plants throughout the office.
Put elegant vases of flowers on desks and tables.
One growing trend to increase greenery in a business is to install a vertical garden, i.e. a wall of plants. This looks dramatic and modern.
3. Create an Outdoor Working Space
Outdoor working spaces are an excellent way for employees to enjoy natural surroundings.
· roof gardens
· herb gardens
Make the area as attractive as possible with lots of greenery, so workers feel healthier. A view over gardens or woodland is ideal, but this may be difficult in built-up areas.
Green spaces are also perfect for social gatherings after work. Enjoy a barbecue or simply share drinks and chat after a long day at the office in the fresh air. If the area is large enough, why not hold your office parties there?
4. Include Natural Elements
Another way of introducing nature in the workplace is by incorporating natural elements, such as wood and stone, into your interior design.
These materials have several advantages. For example, they don’t have the hazardous chemicals found in vinyl and laminate, and they usually look more stylish than artificial substances.
Choose wooden cabinets over plywood, and use natural flooring.
Hanging appealing paintings of landscapes and art featuring patterns found in nature throughout the office helps to create a calmer environment and reminds people of the outdoors.
Interesting wooden sculptures are another possibility.
Decorating with relaxing earth tones, such as sienna or ocher, also makes the atmosphere more relaxing.
5. Fragrance the Air with Natural Scents
Natural scents have been shown to have psycho-physiological effects. For example, studies show that lavender helps concentration, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves moods, while rosemary enhances alertness, and assists the memory.
It’s a good idea to read about the different kinds of scents, so that you can decide which is best for your office.
It’s a lovely idea to decorate the office with sweet-smelling flowers and plants, but be sure to check if any of your employees suffer from allergies first. Otherwise, use natural oils derived from plants. Most biophilic designers suggest avoiding artificial scents, because they are often filled with harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde and benzene.
Include these biophilic design ideas in your business, and your employees are sure to be happier and more productive!