Biophilia & The Workplace

what is biophilia?

If you aren’t already familiar with the word ‘biophilia’, you’ve most certainly come across the concept. Simply put, Biophilia is the idea of bringing the outdoors, indoors. The literal meaning is a love of life or living things stemming from the Greek for ‘Philia’ meaning ‘love of’, the opposite being ‘phobia’.

Humans feel good when surrounded by nature, in fact if we were asked to imagine a place where we feel at our most relaxed, researchers have found that over 90% of us will think of natural surroundings. We simply do not like feeling confined or trapped indoors and rather, want to have a sense of feeling free and calm.

why is it important to incorporate biophilic elements into the working environment?

Injecting this idea of biophilia into any environment is a good idea but it is quickly becoming an essential requirment when it comes to workspaces in particular. Studies have proven that we are at our best when exposed to elements such as natural light, fresh air as well as natural materials and textures. This sense of wellness directly impacts our productivity and creativity, thus aiding employees to reach their full potential.

The Brickhouse - Iconic Offices

Many studies have been conducted around the topic of biophilia, one of which is the white paper written by Terrapin Bright Green, called “The Economics of Biophilia”, where it was found that “employees with views of trees and landscape took an average of 57 hours of sick leave per year, compared with 68 hours per year of sick leave taken by employees with no view.” Incredibly, it was also found that a person’s view is in fact, the primary predictor of absenteeism. Their findings overall strongly indicate that an employee with access to natural scenery is significantly correlated to their health, productivity and job satisfaction.

how to bring it into the workplace

Applying biophilic design to any workspace requires a diverse range of design. Technically there are three ways of experiencing nature in the built environment: the direct experience, the indirect, and the experience of space and place. In order to effectively implement this design concept you would ideally be looking to incorporate elements from all three areas.

Direct Experience of Nature
This is everything that is natural in its truest form. An office with direct experiences of nature would have fresh air at all times, be flooded with natural light, views of landscapes or nature where possible, have plenty of plants decorating the space and this could also include having elements of water and fire such as a water feature or fireplace.

Indirect Experience of Nature
These elements are usually mimicking or evoking nature, this could be as simple as having images of nature displayed around the space or filling it with artificial plants and greenery. Furniture and furnishings that comprise of natural materials are also proven to have a very positive impact on a workspace including wood, stone, cork, leather, bamboo and natural fibres. Even the colours used throughout the office can have a deep cognitive effect. Human Spaces describe how “a space with a color palette that feels connected with nature may also be perceived as being a healthy place to dwell, in which one can feel stimulated or calmed.” For example, medium to dark green colours represent a healthy vegetation which can stimulate a feeling of calm and de-stress the senses. Whereas colours that represent dying vegetation such as oranges, yellows and browns can have a less desirable effect.

Experience of Space & Place
Optimising space is potentially the single most important thing any office should do. There needs to be a sense of spaciousness and openness, plenty of windows and maintain a level of diversity between the space layout. This could be as simple as providing employees with break out areas as well as meeting spaces and collaborative spaces, we elaborate on this further in ‘What is a Third Space & Why Everyone Should Have One.

One thing that is apparent is how this concept of biophilia isn’t simply about aesthetics, it’s a methodology. It’s about bringing the proven benefits of being outdoors and feeling close to nature into the workplace. And looking at the incredibly positive effects this practice has on a working environment, it’s clear this trend isn’t going anywhere any time soon, it’s here to stay and will no doubt feature heavily in interior and architectural design of the future.

All of the workspaces featured in this article are Iconic Offices workspaces, we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality offices to ensure our members are at their most productive when working and actually enjoy coming to work. For more info on these workspaces click here.

*The Images featured in this article were part of Enterprise Ireland's Irish Advantage Campaign.

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