First, you should know that if you are a business owner or general manager of a larger company, you can have some of what Google has:
a more biophilic office space
What is that, you ask?
Biophilic design is a strange term that is creeping into the mainstream. It’s been used for healthcare facilities and the hospitality industry. But did you know that it’s also becoming a hot trend in office design? In fact, nearly every 2019 prediction of office trends showcases aspects of biophilic design.
Now you’re hooked?
Yes, Google, Apple, Facebook, and practically ever other trendsetting organization has hopped onto the biophilic bandwagon, too! Why? Well first, let’s talk briefly about what it is.
What is biophilic design?
Biophilic design comes from the term biophilia, which recognizes our inherent need to connect to nature and living things. A few decades ago, biologist E.O. Wilson and Yale professor, Stephen Kellert, partnered with professionals with diverse backgrounds, from the design and build industries, research as well as end users.
They came up with a loose set of principles on how to create man made environments using aspects of nature, such as water, natural light and plants.
Why use biophilic design?
Since the 1980’s, research has shown that natural elements indoors create not only a feel-good notion, but translates to actual improvements in behavior. So, the corporate world has taken notice. Productivity, morale, turnover, sick time benchmarks, as well as creativity, are all impacted positively by incorporating biophilia into the design of work spaces.
The problem with biophilic design
All of this is great, but unfortunately, most companies are not building new gazillion-dollar headquarters or doing a complete renovation. Most companies would love to reap the benefits that biophilic research has shown, but how?
Here are five tips to incorporate some biophilic design features into your office.
1. Natural light – As humans we know how important natural light is to our mood. But most office spaces cannot add more windows and the access to windows is limited. Consider removing or opening the blinds more. One office that I worked in had private offices around the outside of the building and open space in between. They cut windows into the walls to allow the natural light to penetrate into the interior space.
If you’re in an open plan office (and who isn’t these day?) you can hang a mirror on an opposing wall to reflect the natural light coming in, in effect, doubling the windows. If that isn’t possible, consider changing out the fluorescent bulbs to full-spectrum lighting, which mimics the color of the sun. I consulted with a university office that was moved into a basement space. These bulbs were so helpful in lifting the spirits of the staff!
2. Plants – When I first started working in the corporate world in the mid-1980’s, live plants were a token object. Many offices I visited didn’t have one plant because there was no one that would take on the responsibility for care. Now, with the growth of research about the positive impacts of plants, work spaces are turning into botanical gardens!
No need to go that far, but if your office doesn’t have any plants or only a few, you’ve got a strong case to add more. Plants not only add to enhanced employee behavior, but adds much-needed moisture to often dry environments and absorbs some of the toxins in the air.
3. Color – Gray and white can be really fabulous in a home with lots of accent colors and vibrant artwork, but mostly, gray and white create a drab, colorless backdrop to tons of metal and electronics. Consider adding one accent wall in a vibrant color. I suggested one of my clients add one red wall to his conference room to inspire more energy and creativity. They loved it! (Word of caution: Too much red, though, creates aggression and stress. So use a vibrant color like this sparingly.)
Some greens and blues are associated with health and vitality. We connect these colors with healthy vegetation and water. Using some of this in the decor will contribute to greater feeling of nature connection.
4. Natural materials – Most offices have some accent pieces of furniture, such as tables and chairs for small conversations, book shelves and conference tables. Use furnishings made of wood and side chairs with textured, natural material. A jute area rug will pull the look together!
Research has shown that even fake wood surfaces have an impact over bland beige. One client was renovating a two floor agency with a new cubicle modular system. Thankfully, the order had not gone through yet and she was able to change-out the previously ordered beige melamine desk surface for a faux wood one at my suggestion.
5. Water fountain – Moving water is a wonderful addition to any office space. They are typically places where people congregate (remember the water cooler?)
One office that I consulted with had an aquarium. It was a wonderful de-stressor – both visually and audibly! Water fountains also provide a similar experience without the rigorous maintenance of a fish tank.
And finally, one more as a bonus:
6. Nature views – Even if you have a view of a building or a parking lot, you can create views of nature in your office space. Studies show that hanging art with nature themes works nearly as good as having the view itself (hospitals use this all the time!)
One client has a mural of a local mountain range painted on a wall in the office. It was not only beautiful, but reminded the staff of how wonderful their region was. It also honored the very land that they worked and lived in.
But you don’t have to paint a mural to get the right impact. Have employees bring in their favorite nature photos and have an event to choose which ones should go in a collage on one wall or positioned throughout the office.
Inspiration comes in many forms, but nothing beats nature.
Maureen K. Calamia a thought leader in transforming homes and clients lives through the inspiration of nature, biophilic design and feng shui. She is author of Creating Luminous Spaces which empowers others to discover and nourish their True Nature in their inner and outer spaces. A yogi for twenty years, she has appeared on television and written for many websites. Visit Maureen at luminous-spaces.com.