Nature is an important part of human life. It inspires and heals offering wonderful benefits to those who embrace it. And the best thing about it is that you can have it at all times and surround yourself with positive energy. Besides the most obvious part of nature which is plants, other elements are integral to improving your surroundings. Sunlight, water, stone, and wood are all pieces of nature perfect to have in a workplace and enhance working conditions.
For a modern workplace, biophilia is one of its integral parts concentrated on employee wellbeing and bettering the office design. It fulfills the basic need of humans to be in touch with nature offering a never-ending source for creativity, productivity and enhanced relations among colleagues. With all these plus sides in mind, here are ways to bring nature into the workplace and harvest its benefits to both employee and company satisfaction.
Bring in more of the natural light
Natural light has a physical and psychological influence on employees that can greatly affect the mood at the workplace. If you are looking for office space, pay close attention to its exposure to sunlight and the number of windows it has. Choosing a modest-size place with lots of natural light is better than lacking it in a big space.
Exposure to sunlight is crucial for employee wellbeing and productivity since it improves performance, sleep, and vitality. If employees work in dimly lit spaces with minor exposure to natural light their bodies will produce melatonin – a sleep hormone which will make them drowsy and tired.
If you don’t have enough sunlight at work, consider using some of the design tricks to enhance it like placing mirrors across from windows or reflecting surfaces, at least. Instead of drapes and shutters, opt for curtains that will allow the light in without interfering without preventing employees to work comfortably.
Form a visual connection with nature
Colors and patterned commonly found in nature will make the space more soothing and inspiring. Blue, green and white are significant for motivation, while yellow will boost creativity. Earthy colors like brown and orange will improve the mood and make the ambiance more pleasant. Neutral tones like gray can create more relaxing vibes perfect for fighting off stress. However, gray tones should serve as details and not a dominant color since they are associated with low creativity and productivity.
For a visually pleasing environment, it’s also important to integrate patterns with the rest of the office design. Symmetries and geometric shapes will have a positive psychological effect on employees especially those imitating shapes from nature. The idea is to emulate a natural ambiance that will make everyone feel at ease and motivated to work. But these patterns shouldn’t overwhelm the space since they can lead to discomfort and create a stressful environment instead of another way around.
A pet-friendly workplace
Animals are part of nature and to respect the biophilic approach, the office needs to be pet-friendly or at least have workplace pets. Allowing employees to bring their pets to work is a good anti-stress strategy that will benefit the whole office. However, not all pets will feel comfortable surrounded by people or outside of their habitats, like snakes, birds and even some cats. So, this practice should be limited to dogs or other animals that won’t get harmed by staying at the office.
On the other hand, if some employees are allergic or scared of animals, there is another way how to improve the workplace. Designate a place for pets where they will feel comfortable like a doggy daycare or limit their movement. Additionally, an aquarium with fish or other water animals is a nice way to both decorate the space and introduce animals. However, this type of setting will require that someone cares for the animals even during weekends and holidays.
A pet-friendly office is very common today since employers recognized the benefits it has for morale and a positive atmosphere. It also serves as a wonderful way to establish communication and help employees focus on the task at hand even if they have to stay longer at work. With pets by their side, owners don’t have to hurry home or worry.
Art is constantly present in human existence – from cave paintings to giant statues on the city squares. And having it in the office will only come as a natural design element intended to beautify and visually enhance space. However, nature-depicting artwork may have even more success in building a positive working environment and inspiring employees to achieve more goals.
Nature scenes like dunes, rivers, forests, and skies bring serene moments into the office and open up space to the outside world. These are perfect visual aids for employees to rest their eyes and take a break from looking at the screens.
But don’t stop at paintings and photos. Wallpapers can also be inspiring and boost the mood of the workplace. Choose motifs that are calming and perfectly depicting nature like leaves and flowers. If combined right with other colors at the workplace, these details can create an ideal working environment for better productivity and new ideas.
Furniture from natural materials
Natural materials like wood, stone, and glass should be dominant in the workplace. This also includes office furniture like a desk, cabinets, and shelves. Synthetic materials like plastic not only visually hinder the experience but also affect the employee mood unconsciously.
With the world facing environmental catastrophe, people are more aware of the problems plastic and other artificial materials create. So supporting sustainable materials like recycled textiles and salvaged wood for furniture has become important. Rattan, bamboo, and cork are also preferable materials for biophilic office design, as well as metal.
However, there is an aesthetical factor that should also be considered when it comes to office furniture. To preserve the properties of natural materials they shouldn’t be unrecognizable meaning that materials should retain natural visual properties. For example, wood should look like wood and have only minimal corrections and embellished to stay natural.
Add a water element to the workplace
Water has a proven effect on the health and wellbeing like reducing stress, normalizing blood pressure and creating a tranquil environment. A water feature at the workplace will bring many benefits to the emotional state of employees and improve their concentration. While a fountain outdoors like on the balcony or roof can be beneficial, the key is to introduce a water feature indoors.
It can be something modest like a wall fountain that is no bigger than an average painting and can be installed almost anywhere in the office. However, water walls are a dramatic and modern way to enhance biophilic design perfect for the lobby and recreational area. Moreover, if there is enough room, an indoor pond will introduce the serenity of Japanese Zen gardens and it can even be home to some Koi fish.
Having a water feature also brings benefits to employee health. Since they are natural humidifier they will add moisture to the environment which is good for plants, as well.
Introduce nature through air
Besides keeping the temperature at the office comfortable there is also another aspect that will greatly affect employee performance. It regards thermal variability which includes subtle changes in temperature and presence of airflow which mimic conditions found in nature. This will make the workplace more alive, invigorating and refreshing especially for those who spend the whole day inside.
Regular maintenance of HVAC systems and making sure it works properly will allow control of air temperature and its circulation. However, having oxygen-producing plants in the office like areca palm and snake plants will also help. On the other hand, windows and balcony doors that can open have their advantages, although it all depends on the position of the building. If the workplace is in a crowded area with lots of traffic, then it’s better to use HVAC systems since they filter the air from pollutants.
Benefits of the horticultural therapy
A garden in the workplace is an excellent way for employees to relax and eliminate stress. This is because the soil contains bacteria that encourage the brain to produce serotonin – a well-known feel-good hormone.
Also called horticultural therapy, this kind of approach helps focus the thoughts and gives a sense of accomplishment and builds self-esteem. Basically, as the plants grow so does your employee which helps them cope with anxiety and brings a more calming environment into the workplace.
Equipment and tools like those made by Hoselink are perfect for gardening in containers and planters which are the most practical for small spaces. Also, planters are great to grow herbs, vegetables, and fruits which will deliver fresh produce for lunch breaks and healthy snacks. However, to succeed with these types of plants, use varieties that are easy to grow like lettuce, onions, and tomatoes.
Good for team building
Plants can be one of the bonding element between coworkers. Moreover, this can become a team-building project that will allow employees to get to know each other better and share a common goal. Besides encouraging employees to buy plants and share tending for them, there is also another way to bring them more together.
Plant workshops are fun and perfect to build connections between people. During the workshop, participants will learn how to seed, care for and prune plants, but also they will talk to each other and share experiences. This is a creative way to approach team building which won’t cost a lot and will bring wonderful benefits for the company culture and mood.
The trend to bring nature into the workplace is ever-growing. People have accepted the benefits of biophilic design and are readily eager to introduce it into their office space. While some may have it all, others will only be able to use some of its principles but that will also be good for wellbeing and improve employee productivity. After all, having a little bit of nature is better than not having it at all in the work environment.