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November 7, 2022

How to bring nature into the workplace

‍Modern work environments are largely impersonal and artificial. Most people spend the bulk of their working hours within office buildings, disconnected from nature. But what if you could make workplaces more nature-friendly?

The answer lies in biophilic design, which is the integration of nature into the design of a building or space. This concept can help of bring nature into the workplace, creating better-adapted employees by bringing them closer to nature, fostering feelings of joy, calm and well-being.

What is Biophilic Design?

Biophilic Design is the integration of nature into building design. It is the design of spaces to deliberately bring the benefits of nature into the built environment. This can be achieved through the use of plants and vegetation, indoor and outdoor spaces, and interior and exterior colour schemes.

People respond to nature in different ways. Its benefits can be accessed through experiencing nature’s beauty—via plants, animals, colours, textures, sound, weather and sunlight—which generate positive emotions. These benefits can also be accessed through mindfulness and stress-reduction, as well as a sense of calm and well-being.

Benefits of Biophilic Design

Bringing nature into the workplace can provide many benefits to employees and employers.

Firstly, having an environment where nature is present may help to increase productivity by increasing employee satisfaction. Having a place in the workplace that employees enjoy being in and that has a positive impact on their productivity may also help to increase employee retention.

Nature can also help to reduce stress, increase concentration, and improve employee wellness. It can also help to reduce office boredom and increase creativity. Having an environment that features plants can also aid in reducing air pollution and improving air quality.

There are 6 key principles of Biophilic Design

Many buildings, offices, and workspaces are designed to meet the needs of modern, active people. But research shows that many don’t actually suit or even adequately address the physical and mental health needs of their occupants. For example, research shows that a majority of employees report feeling too much stress at work.

But what is the solution? Biophilic design employs certain principles in order to integrate nature into the design of buildings, to make modern workplaces that actually support staff.

  1. 1
    Environmental features
    Through the use of environmental features such as plants, walking paths and specific seating you can offer a variety of green spaces that can foster human-nature connection. This is can improve your mood, reduce stress levels and improve immune function.
  2. 2
    Natural shapes and forms
    The range of variance found in nature is what feeds our need for diverse forms. This can be seen through large-scale design detailing, such as that on the sculptural ceiling plane or within smaller repeated scales like at metal stair railing.
  3. 3
    Natural patterns and processes
    This element is about combining properties found in nature into the workplace. This is typically done by integrating natural elements into the workspace rather than mimicking these shapes and forms. A good example is reclaimed timber, with it's beautiful aged character.
  4. 4
    Light and space
    Light and space are the two major themes of biophilic design. Buildings can be shaped by light, with ample daylight for occupied spaces being the goal. Each space also wants a clear purpose, be that task related, relaxation.
  5. 5
    Place-based relationships
    This element focuses on connection to the local environment, specifically geography and ecology. Using artwork or colours to represent local mountain ranges, coastlines, or beaches can elicit a sense of peace and gratitude towards where you live.

  6. 6
    Evolved human-nature relationships
    The human need for rest has always been a crucial part of staying safe and healthy in our fast-paced world. Workplaces that offer this sanctury and support restorative practises allow staff to recharge during the busy work day. This could be as simple as a wind-down zone with wind chimes to ease anxiety.

Tips for bringing nature into the workplace

Bring in plants:
This is one of the most important ways that you can bring nature into your workplace. Plants can not only provide greenery and colour but they can also serve as air purifiers that remove harmful toxins from the air. Having plants in the workplace also helps to reduce the amount of airborne chemicals that are released when people are inside an office building.

Lighting:
Natural light should be used whenever possible, and artifical lighting use should be minimised. Artificial lighting should also use 'Daylight' temperature of light.

Sounds:
Sounds from computers and other electronic devices should be kept to a minimum. This helps to reduce the amount of harmful or distraction sound pollution. Instead of playing the radio, play nature soundtracks such as a bubbling stream or wind through a forest.

Outdoor areas:
If you have outdoor areas in the workplace, it is advisable to keep them as green as possible. This helps to reduce harmful air pollutants. Also consider adding a water feature or fountains, for promoting peace with calming sounds.

Design:
Attention should be paid to the layout of working spaces. Large, open spaces can help to reduce the amount of sound that travels through the office. Smaller, closed spaces can be useful for more creative work.

It's now up to you

Biophilic Design can help to make workspaces that are safer, cleaner, and more welcoming for employees. Bringing nature into workplaces can help to improve employee well-being, decrease stress, and improve productivity.

By providing an environment where nature is present, employees are less likely to feel disconnected from nature while they are in their work environment. It's now up to you how you make this happen in YOUR workplace.

About the Author

Michael Keogh is a Health Coach and Exercise Physiologist with 7 years experience in clinical and corporate settings. He is also the co-author of upcoming book “Thrive: How to 10X your Health, Wealth and Happiness”. He uses exercise as medicine to treat chronic disease and ensure healthy ageing, whilst guiding his clients towards sustainable health behaviours that result in improved performance and greater satisfaction in work and life.

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