The statistics are grim. The average office worker spends 90 percent of their time indoors. Studies show 35 percent spend only 15 minutes outside while 13 percent spend 30 minutes outdoors, and 26 percent spend 60 minutes outside each day. In comparison, federal guidelines mandate prisoners spend two hours a day outside.
But using biophilic design elements in commercial spaces can bring the outdoors inside while boosting productivity, reducing stress, and improving worker retention.
WHAT IS BIOPHILIC DESIGN?
Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson popularized the term Biophilia, love of living things, in the 1980s, and argued humans need to be continually connected to nature. Biophilic Design or Biophilic Architecture takes that concept and incorporates it into the building’s architecture.
But Biophilic Design elements are so much more than bringing in plants, installing waterfall fountains, adding more windows, or even building green walls. Biophilic Design incorporates five key areas: natural light and outdoor views, outside space, color, natural materials, and plants.
Biophilic design examples include adding natural light, adding windows, using exterior space, incorporating more color, using natural materials, and using plants or vertical vegetation.
INCORPORATING BIOPHILIC DESIGN ELEMENTS
A room with a view: It’s not your imagination. You need natural light and a view to the outside. Nearly 30 percent of office workers lack windows and natural light. Working in artificial light can cause depression and reduce productivity.
Get outside: Businesses need to take advantage of any available outdoor space, including gardens, balconies, patios, or rooftops. Adding tables, chairs, or benches can encourage staff to spend time outdoors.
Skip the beige or gray: While some people think neutral colors are soothing, they actually can inhibit creativity and productivity. Even worse, most people find them depressing. Most Americans say blue or green makes them feel more productive, while a French study found orange worked best, and a Danish study showed using blue boosted productivity.
Use natural materials: Using wood or stone in architecture mimics the outdoors and makes workers feel more energized and creative.
Plants, plants, plants: Adding more plants, especially by installing a green wall or vertical vegetation, increases oxygen levels, improves concentration, and decreases mental strain and fatigue. While living green walls are one of the best ways to incorporate plants into the biophilic design, moss walls also are popular because they provide similar visual appeal but cost less and require less light and water to maintain.
BIOPHILIC DESIGN BENEFITS
Every year American businesses spend billions to help their employees cope with stress-related illnesses. They also lose even more money to lost productivity. But incorporating Biophilic Design can help reverse those trends and should be considered an investment in creating a more functional workspace.
Biophilic Design improves workers’ health and brain function while boosting both productivity and creativity. It also helps reduce worker attrition.
Healthier workers: Employees with more exposure to natural light, outdoor views, and plants, are happier and healthier. They experience less stress, tend to get sick less often, and are more productive.
More productive: A British study showed workers who were exposed to nature were 15 percent more productive than those who weren’t. The study attributes the difference to better air quality and improved concentration levels.
Better focus: Adding plants increase oxygen levels, which reduces mental fatigue and boosts concentration and overall productivity.
More creativity: Biophilic design elements like artwork, natural light, and windows, create more stimulating workplaces. Those elements encourage workers to more creative.
Less turnover: Happy, healthy workers are more likely to stay. That reduces the money spent to recruit and train new workers.
Biophilic Design is the future of workplace architecture. Research shows millennials now make up 35 percent of the American workforce. Often challenging to recruit and retain, millennial workers most often cite the quality of their workspace for a reason to take or stay in a job.
Millennials champion sustainability, and nearly 75 percent say they would take a pay cut to work for a socially-responsible company. Traditional closed-door offices are out, while open-air, nature-filled workspaces are popular.
Using Biophilic Design elements will be crucial to recruiting the workers of the future. Using those elements, especially vertical vegetation or living green walls, boosts productivity and creativity while creating happier, healthier workers.