Workspaces

Biophilia: Bringing Nature into Workplace Design

Biophilia and Workplace Design
Jenna Van Schoor
Written by Jenna Van Schoor

We all have a desire to work somewhere beautiful and inspiring, or at the very least, in a harmonious space that allows for some interface with the outdoors- even if it’s just a collection of carefully looked after office plants.

For those more permanently based behind a desk in a tall concrete building, it can sometimes be difficult to incorporate the necessary greenery into a workspace. Research shows that apart from an aesthetic appeal, access to nature of natural elements in the workplace is an important aspect of workplace design, as it contributes to greater productivity and well-being. This field of study is known as biophilia, and is based on an inherent human need to be a part of nature, even in our modern lives.

Biophilia might sound like an overly complex scientific term, but it really just means an affinity for the natural world, as put forward in the theories of biologist Edward O. Wilson. As we continue to rapidly evolve as humans, we still need natural resources more than ever, but have distanced ourselves from the earth and the natural world around us. Biophilic design addresses this disconnect by incorporating nature into the built environment.

The online digital publication Human Spaces is focused on sharing information and resources of biophilic design, and includes many examples of the ways in which this has positively influenced the productivity and well-being of employees all over the world. According to the Human Spaces Global Report, incorporating elements of nature, even through artificial representations of different landscapes, can improve well-being by up to 15%. This is measured by various means, including measuring levels of the stress hormone cortisol and “happy hormones” such as dopamine.

This report also confirms that access to natural environments or even just elements such as natural lighting and greenery can also have a positive effect on productivity. Various field studies conducted showed that even just having offices plants and the colour green in the workplace increased levels of efficiency. Natural materials in the workplace, such as wood and stone, also improve productivity levels and increase employee performance.

Some examples of how biophilic design can be incorporated into the workplace include choosing bright colours that remind employees of nature. Other ideal examples of biophilic design include making the most of a view, or the surrounding landscape. Even if there’s a lack of nature in the immediate vicinity, peaceful and harmonious spaces can be created to mimic the calming effects of nature. These include creating quiet places for employees to work, and making sure that everyone in the office has access to natural light.

However we choose to look at it, the reality is that our lives are becoming more and more focused on technology and keeping pace with rapid population growth, which means we need to make an active choice to remain connected to the natural environment. While some of us might not have access to the same natural environments, being aware of our biophilic impulses can improve our overall wellbeing.

About the author

Jenna Van Schoor

Jenna Van Schoor

Jenna is Chaos and Rocketfuel's researcher and writer on everything related to the future of work.

Passionate about travel and new ways of thinking, she believes there is so much to be discovered when it comes to new technologies, perspectives and design.