We’ve all heard of biophilic offices—work environments that satisfy the innate human desire to be close to nature. They’ve been hailed as an innovation that harnesses biophilia to make offices warmer, more welcoming, and conducive to creativity. They’re also viewed as a luxury for employers that.
- have the budget to give their employees the absolute best work environment
- want to be viewed as being environmentally responsible
This conflicting viewpoint gives rise to some big questions:
Are biophilic offices an extravagance or an actual need?
Are biophilic designs really effective?
Is implementing the biophilic design in offices a sound investment?
This argument will answer all these questions. Read on.
Biophilic Office: Extravagance Or requirement?
According to psychological research, an individual’s basic functioning is affected by these four factors:
- The desire for a different environment (different light, temperature, and air conditions)
- The absence of meaningful stimuli in their immediate surroundings
- The absence of personal space that makes them feel safe and self-assured
- The Lack Of Outside Views
Each of these factors can cause issues such as poor health, lack of focus, unfavorable mood, and absenteeism. In fact, 10 percent of absenteeism is caused by the workplace’s lack of natural connection.
Conventional offices not built based on these factors may or may not supply the conditions necessary for basic functioning. That means even offices that have a high rate of productivity likely have room for improvement.
All 4 of these factors are accounted for in a biophilic office. Conventional offices may not be the cause of issues such as poor focus, mood, and general health. They do, however, lack the soothing environment that can alleviate these issues. That’s an area biophilic offices excel at.
The Effects Of Biophilic Design In Offices
According to research, employees that work in offices that have natural elements such as sunlight and greenery are:
- 6 percent more productive
- 15 percent more creative
- Report their level of well-being to be 15 percent higher than employees working in offices bereft natural elements
The benefits of biophilia can be garnered in two ways. The first way is direct, including natural elements such as natural air, lighting, plants, animals, or water in the surroundings.
Option two is to stimulate the natural environment. This can be achieved by:
- Including nature-related imagery in a person’s environment
- Using natural materials such as wood and natural stone in décor and construction
- Using colors that occur in nature in the surroundings
- Stimulating natural air and lighting
- Including natural forms (trees, hills, animals, birds, etc.) in the surroundings
Research has revealed that lack or absence of contact with nature has the following ill effects:
- Diminished use of human senses
- Poor focus and reduced attention span
- Increased risks of emotional and physical ailments
- Obesity and related health issues
These statistics prove that:
Biophilic designs are highly effective. They can make employees 6 percent more productive, 15 percent happier, and more creative.
Also, office spaces that don’t utilize biophilia can cause the employees physical and emotional distress and impact their productivity.
I believe it’s safe to proclaim that biophilic offices are not an extravagance or fad but a basic requirement.
Are Biophilic Offices A Good Investment?
So, biophilic offices work. But are the benefits of biophilic design worth the investment? First off, creating a biophilic office doesn’t have to require a complete overhaul of your office’s décor. It can be accomplished with minimal change, effort, and investment.
Here are some simple, economical ways to incorporate natural elements in your office:
Add some live plants to your office. The office’s entrance, waiting area, cafeteria, bathroom, etc., can all benefit from adding some plants. But don’t forget the actual workspace. Compact potted plants can be used on desks or shelves. You can also place one or larger, taller plants at key focal points.
Here are some easy-to-care office plants that will do well even in low-light conditions:
- Aloe plant
- Bamboo Palm plant
- Gerbera Daisy
- Snake plant
- Spider plant
Solutions such as artificial indoor plants, trees, hedges, and moss walls are great for incorporating biophilia in the office space. Moss walls can be used to display the brand name and logo. Moss wall artwork is another wonderful décor option.
Artificial plants and trees require negligible care, no watering, pruning, or fertilization. They also don’t produce organic waste such as fallen leaves or branches. This makes them the perfect biophilic solution for those that consider caring for live plants too much of a hassle.
Natural/Natural Looking Materials
Opt for furnishings made of natural or natural-looking materials—wood, faux wood, stone, bamboo, etc. Office furniture is one of the most obvious areas for incorporating a natural look and not looking to buy new furniture? Well, then you can get some wood or stone sculptures, green or wooden textured wall panels instead.
I’d recommend you choose organic-looking furnishings over polished, well-refined shapes and textures. Artwork or posters depicting images of nature are another simple, inexpensive way of making the office more biophilic.
Finally, let’s look at the profitability of biophilic offices. Here are some real-world examples:
- The ING Bank building (Amsterdam) incorporated basic biophilic principles to reduce workday loss by 15 percent.
- A study conducted in California’s retail stores revealed that an increase in daylight illumination increased gross sales by 40 percent. These stores’ energy expenditures also went down by $0.24-0.66 per square foot.
- At a call center based in Sacramento, California, workers with a view of vegetation were found to be handling a greater call volume at a 6-7 percent quicker rate than workers that didn’t have the same view.
The call center spent $1000 per employee to rearrange all workstations to include a view of vegetation. The result was astounding—average annual productivity savings of $2,990 per worker.
The benefits of biophilic design easily outweigh the cost, time, and effort involved in creating a biophilic office. It’s a necessary task, one that will benefit every employee and that every employer should execute at the earliest.