Most employees spend an average of eight hours per day day indoors. But over the years, modern offices and buildings have decreased the number of natural elements inside. Natural light, ventilation and fresh air, vegetation, views and other assets of the natural world with which we have an innate connection have been replaced by an artificial environment. So it's no surprise that your company's workforce may start to wither inside a stale or sterilized office space. The symptoms can include a lack of creativity, productivity, energy and general mood balance. According to Harvard University myrmecologist and conservationist Edward O. Wilson, human beings are hardwired to connect with nature and other living organisms. By introducing biophilic design into your office layout (or at least a plant or two), you can can vastly improve the psychological, emotional and physical well-being of your entire staff.
Before your CFO and COO freak out, keep in mind that you to redesign your office space with biophilic concepts, you don't necessarily need a complete design overhaul. Often times simple, inexpensive design solutions have the power to transform your office environment significantly.
For example, consider the case of one particular call center in the Netherlands. The call center's office layout was one of clean minimalism, which displayed a lack of greenery. Employee productivity and staff morale were considered low. Office management participated in an experiment where they placed one plant every few feet throughout the office, between desks and workstations. This introduced a new visual focus and a relaxing natural element. As a result, employee performance in memory retention and other basic tests showed significant improvements.
Increase Greenery Throughout Your Office
Maybe you have noticed that plants are commonly used to reduce noise pollution along highways and interstates. Using this same concept, plants in the workplace will change your room's acoustics by reducing reverberation time. If you place plants in larger areas such as reception spaces containing hardwood floors, open office layouts featuring concrete or marble, or employee lounge areas or cafeterias, they will effectively absorb noises which can be distracting and hurt employee productivity.
Plants or green walls can also increase oxygen and airflow, making the immediate surroundings feel fresher and more breathable. The most common indoor air contaminants are the volatile organic compounds (VOC). What are the main sources of VOC? Upholstery, carpeting, adhesives, copy machines, manufactured wood products, pesticides, and cleaning agents. If your employees have been falling ill regularly or displaying low energy, pollutants such as these could be the cause.
If you're looking for a thoughtful way to boost your employees' productivity, reduce your team's stress, and keep your office space healthy and clean, add greenery to your workplace.
Gift Plants to Employees
Plants are not only air purifiers, they're aesthetically pleasing and a source of stress relief.By gifting plants to your employees, they can choose which plants they like the best or that reflect their individual work stations. Introducing a variety of safe, nontoxic plants to modular workstations, your reception area or your break rooms and recreational spaces will also help your team breathe more easily.
Install Focal Walls
Focal walls are large displays typically utilizing a mural or tastefully done wallpaper, which can evoke feelings of being outdoors without actually bringing in the dirt. These can boost morale on a cold gray day, and with appropriate lighting, can even help employees with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Use Natural Materials
Bring in natural materials: wood, stone, and even a water feature. These mimic the textures of the outdoors, which can really enhance the feel of Mother Nature in the next room. Reclaimed wood floors, layered stone hallways or entrances, and reception wall-hugging water fountains are examples of how to introduce natural materials into your existing layout. A note on fountains and other types of water-related décor: they should be admired and enjoyed, but not in the way. If employees and clients have to purposely avoid running into a water feature when walking through your office, the fountain is in the wrong place.
Follow Your Nose
Enhance the smell of your office. One of the quickest ways to trigger a nostalgic longing for the outdoors is the smell of rain, the ocean, or forest leaves. Check into different air fresheners that subtly layer into the room's atmosphere, yet don't overpower the office. There are many "office scent" and "scent marketing" providers that offer solutions for small rooms as well as your HVAC systems. Looking for a more organic approach? A lot of companies are doing edible gardens in their sunny spaces or on rooftops, and with health conscious employees, participation in them is in high demand. Bring in edible garden plants or herbs that smell good, such as tomato plants, lemon balm, lavender, or eucalyptus, but remember to run a survey with your employees first to note any allergies.
Level Up The Fitness Area
Do you offer a fitness perk for your employees? If the space works, make it available outdoors with special equipment. Otherwise, look for opportunities to introduce simulation of a natural activity, such as rowing, swimming, tree climbing, rock climbing, hiking and more in your corporate gym, workout area or extra fitness classes.
Humans are naturally drawn to nature and prefer to be surrounded by these types of environments, regardless of the types of work they're executing. Plants neutralize artificial lighting, balance humidity, and regulate temperatures, making your office a more suitable environment for your team to accomplish tasks and projects.
By providing a natural space that your employees will want to work in every day, they can accomplish more, give themselves more time to get creative, and make time to interact with their colleagues. When your team is more productive and works in an environment that supports their needs, they're happier, more satisfied, and more engaged..