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Biophilia: How Natural Design Can Enrich The Office... And Engage Your Staff

When you walk into your office each day, what is it that makes you feel good? The answer to this question, from a biophilic perspective, is that we feel good when our environment connects us with nature.

Biophilia, a concept coined by American biologist Edward Wilson, refers to the innate bond that exists between human beings and nature.  Based on Wilson’s hypothesis, many have researched and written about the positive benefits of nature on human health. In more recent years, this has led to an interest in how we can incorporate nature and natural elements into the built environment, particularly in the workplace, where we spend a great part of our lives.

In our recent report with Interface, led by Professor Cary Cooper, we examined the effects of nature inspired design on a number of business outcomes in organisations across the globe. Collecting data from over 7000 office workers in 16 countries, our aim was to quantify the benefits of Biophilic design and provide a blueprint for nature-inspired design for high-performing organisations.

Across the globe, it was found that employee wellbeing was 15% higher in office spaces where natural elements such as greenery and sunlight were incorporated. The presence of natural elements also had a significant impact on the productivity of workers, increasing this on average by 6%.

Yet, despite these benefits to employees and organisations as a whole, an alarming number of workspaces fail to provide natural light (47%) or greenery (58%). Compare this to the top two most wanted elements of employees in their office space, first being natural light and second being live plants, it’s clear that bringing nature into the workplace should be higher on the global corporate agenda. Office design is also a key factor for people in choosing an employer, with a third of workers reporting that the design of an office would affect their decision to work there. For those companies who want to attract and recruit the best talent, design is evidently a crucial factor.

Other elements that ranked highly for employees were a quiet working space, views of the sea and bright colours. Further to this, having a window view of nature is shown to have a greater positive effect on people’s health and wellbeing than a view of the built environment.

However, it is unrealistic to suggest that all organisations wanting to increase employee wellbeing and productivity relocate or redesign their offices in order to reap these benefits. There are many simple and effective ways of creating symbolic connections to nature indoors.  While many employers will not be able to provide window views of the sea or nearby parks, they can incorporate small water features with free flowing water, place live plants or green walls in the office and use highly textured, coloured materials within the office design that mimic the textures and tones of natural materials.

Our research has contributed significantly to the growing evidence base for biophilic design and the impact it can have on the organisations bottom line. It leads to performance increases and employees who feel happier and more positive in their workplace. Yet, it is equally clear that design must be implemented in a way that is in line with employee preferences and ideals in order to harness the greatest benefits. Incorporate biophilia yes, but also listen to your people.

Read what Sir Cary has to say about the Human Spaces report:

This new research report is an important and practical piece, showcasing for the first time the universal connectivity of humans with their natural and built environments. As well as enabling organizations to make links between their physical spaces and the performance of their people, this study throws light on some of the cultural differences at work, across the world, and offers an answer to one of the defining factors of modern life – our ability to cope with urbanization and loss of connection with green spaces. The backdrop to this report is both the movement of populations from rural to urban environments, and the psychology of work – what do we expect and need, and are those expectations different from country to country, organization to organization? The new findings revealed in this report, about how nature and biophilic design impact our well-being and productivity at work, are significant. But I hope of equal significance is that this report can inspire business owners and commercial designers to take a new approach and prompt everyone to think about their own unique workplace and how best it can support people to thrive.”

You can read the full report at http://humanspaces.com/

Hannah Lister is a Business Analyst at Robertson Cooper - connect with her on LinkedIn and let us know your thoughts @gooddayatwork

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Guest Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Cary CooperGood Day at Work®

The new wellbeing resources hub founded by @profcarycooper and Roberston Cooper. Join for FREE and access blogs, videos, downloads, podcasts and more.

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MD of Cary Cooper's business psychology firm, Robertson Cooper - for all things wellbeing, engagement and resilience at work.

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Professor Cary Cooper, Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School.

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