The office spaces we inhabit have both physiological and psychological impacts on us. Because human beings have an innate need to connect with nature, introducing biophilic elements into our offices has a positive impact on both our wellbeing and energy. But it's more than that. Research shows natural element office improve blood flow, heart rate, and stress levels.
Because promoting employee wellbeing is a competitive advantage for employers, bringing the outdoors into the office is a key component to employee retention and the reduction of absenteeism. Employees report feeling rejuvenated and energized in biophilic spaces, and they're inspired by the feel-good reaction plant life, natural lighting, and other natural elements in design present.
Plants reduce dust and bacteria levels, and even as few as one plant for every three employees can reduce CO2 levels by 20%. Freshening the air we breathe in the indoor spaces we occupy for most of our waking hours is great for allergy and asthma sufferers, and results in less sick leave employees are required to take.
It doesn't all have to be green, either. Plants come in a wide variety of colors and textures, and that's before even considering flowers. Bringing in nature adds unparalleled beauty to an otherwise ho-hum space, and with splashes of color, it doesn't need to cost a lot to transform an ordinary room into an extraordinary one. The perk of plants is that you don't need to do a whole office redesign to incorporate them. This allows a company on a tight budget to bring plants in one at a time as the funds allow and still transform an office space.
This isn't to say you need to incorporate a veritable forest in your office. When Etsy moved their New York offices, biophilia was a huge consideration in their new space. Not only did they use designs from artisans who populate their site, they created living walls and a green library where the plants take up very little room while still incorporating beneficial elements.
It's not all about plants, either. There's much more to nature than greenery. There's rock, sand, water, and wood. Any of these elements can become a central feature of your office design, or enhance the feel of a room's natural design. Marble, stone, or granite can be seen as cold and impersonal, but they can also add sleekness to a design when combined with other biophilic elements.
But if you're looking for something warmer, wood is one of the most versatile natural elements available for office design. Used for furniture, walls, ceilings, and sculpture, wood's versatility is something that gives a ton of options to fulfill your aesthetic requirements. It can soften marble and stone features so you can incorporate more natural finishes but don't have to worry about coming across as impersonal. Cork is another great natural substance that, like wood, adds texture and warmth to a space.
The Martini offices in Milan feature plenty of marble in contrast to a living wall and wood elements to warm the space. Airbnb's San Francisco office has stone floors and pillars, wood accents on the walls, and wide open spaces with rustic features.
There are even little Japanese zen gardens employees can place on their desks to bring a small slice of the outdoors inside.
Artificial light has a negative effect on your employees, through eye strain, eye fatigue, and causing headaches. With our greater dependence on devices and screens, natural light can combat these things, and it could be as simple as making sure all employee workstations are within 25 feet of a window, not closing the blinds, or adding a few skylights.
Aside from softening the harshness of artificial light, natural light can bring a whole room or wide open space together in a breathtaking way. Fosbury & Sons, coordinators of co-working spaces, use natural light in a multitude of ways in their offices, to brighten, to highlight, and to provide a little Vitamin D.
Sure, you can go all out, like Microsoft did with their treehouses when, instead of bringing the outdoors in, they brought the indoors out. Or Amazon's rainforest, designed to give employees a space to reflect and relax, or perhaps converse with people outside their regular departments and find inspiration.
Big or small, the addition of Mother Nature's design features into your office design have more benefit for your employees than being visually pleasing. With improved air quality, a reduction in allergens, the increase in overall feelings of peace, and access to natural light even while indoors and working, biophilic features are worth the consideration when determining the best value for your office design dollars.