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How to Incorporate Biophilic Design in the Workplace

Work. Life. Balance. Three words commonly used to describe how we should navigate through our lives, but how are you feeling? It’s been cold and dreary for the past three months. Chances are your 8 hours of fun time was spent inside: at a gym or in your home. A little over one-third of people don’t get more than 15 minutes of outdoor time in the course of a workday. So, it’s probable that many of us are suffering from “the winter blues” making it hard to stay focused at work. Biophilic design may be the solution for your office.

What can we do to make us feel energized and productive all year long?

What are some ways to make your workplace surroundings healthier?

While this is not a new idea, biophilic design is an answer. Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” is a primary example. Where a design has fluidly brought natural elements indoors, mimicking outdoor environments.

A more screen centered world has made it commonplace to inject nature into our workspace. The design community has fully acknowledged the importance of biophilic office design, as it improves worker productivity, innovation, and morale.

To this point, the virtual forum Human Space emphasized that workplaces that have introduced elements of nature have observed a reduction in mental fatigue among staff members and an upsurge in workplace wellbeing.

What are 4 components of Biophilic Design?

1. Plants

The most obvious answer is the introduction of plants and greenery. This is a great place to start if you’re looking to bring the outside in. This addition can be as reasonably inexpensive as a potted plant on your desk. Desk plants can be an extension of our personality and typically don’t require much maintenance.

Biophilic Design in the Workplace is wood walls with green couches and indoor plants and wall hangers.

Living walls are also low maintenance option. Leaf walls and bio canvases artistically create spaces that mimic outdoor environments. Several manufacturers offer a wide range of biophilic products making it easy to add textures and color to any space.

NASA researchers set out to find the best ways to clean the air in space stations. Their Clean Air study found that certain plants are effective at removing chemicals that have been linked to health problems such as headaches and eye irritation.

2. Natural finishes

It’s not JUST about plants. There’s a lot more to nature than greenery. Think about all the textures along a hiking trail: wood, plants, dirt, maybe sand, clay, stone, moss, water, etc. Any of these could be an inspiration for your office design.

Biophilic Design in the Workplace can be as simple and hanging natural textures and colors such as grass, wood or clay and dirt textures images.

Wood is one of the more commonly used natural components for office design. Wood tones, whether real wood or laminate, make your space feel more inviting. Wood or wood laminate can be used on any surface of an office making it one of the most flexible finishes.

A simple way to add hints of these natural elements into a space is to choose an earth tone paint for your walls. Also, fabric choices give you thousands of options to highlight glimmers of waves or floral patterns.

Biophilic Design in the Workplace can consist of encouraging employees to create mood boards of natural images and textures.

3. Windows and natural light

You may remember our blog on workplace lighting: Factors Affecting Employee Performance: Lighting and Temperature. Artificial light has an adverse effect on office workers, leading to eye strain, eye fatigue and often is a trigger for headaches. With our ever-increasing dependence on devices and screens, using natural light can brighten, highlight and provide a shot of Vitamin D. Not surprisingly, natural lighting has also shown to have a huge impact on sickness/ absence rates.

A recent research project found that workers who had a window that offered a view of natural scenery recovered lower levels of stress at a much quicker rate than those who only had a landscape view of a blank wall.

4. Manmade elements

You can employ artwork depicting plants, animals or landscapes; shades of green, yellow blue and brown; floral patterns; and naturally chaotic shapes, curves, and circles rather than angles and straight lines. All these additions can help achieve a biophilic space.

Biophilic Design in the Workplace can be created within communal spaces such as Amazon does. Greenhouse-like rooms are added to the workspace.

The latest trend offers conference or office space options literally outside of the normal work environment.

Major employers such as Amazon have bought into the biophilic idea in a big way, adding amazing structures like glass-domed greenhouses to their company headquarters. Featuring 40,000 plants climbing on walls as high as four stories, the greenery creates an environment that mimics a rainforest.

At Google, offices are designed to maximize employee health and satisfaction. Workspaces are filled with plants, reclaimed wood, views of nature, water installations and even more exotic biophilic elements like rock walls.

Google achieves a Biophilic Design in the Workplace by adding a rock climing wall.

That said, the average company can realize the same benefits of biophilic design through much simpler means with much less investment. Surveyed employees describe feeling revitalized and energized in biophilic spaces, and in turn, they are inspired by the feel-good response plant life, natural lighting and other natural elements in biophilic design offer.

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