The design brief:
Placing people at the heart of the design, taking a human centered design approach to health and wellbeing within the workplace.
Design principles in action
- Integrating nature and natural patterns into building architecture
- creating spaces that benefit those working within the built environment
- strengthening the human-nature connection
- mirroring natural light conditions, which help to regulate circadian rhythms
- featuring nature-resembling colours, indoor plants, nature-inspired artwork or photographs, and views of greenery
- spaces that protect physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing
- integration of modular design elements
- consider sustainable design models including carbon neutral styles
Biophilic benefits in the workplace
The built environment that forms our workplace directly impacts on how we perform, feel and even interact with others. Focusing on spaces that support the wellbeing creativity and productivity of employees has become a global imperative. Human beings have an innate need to be connected to nature and biophilia is a way of designing spaces that will help organisations meet that need.
The benefits of biophilia in a commercial setting are many and varied:
- Recruiting and retaining top talent
- Positive brand image
- Employee satisfaction
- Sustainability credentials
- Reduced levels of stress
- Improved concentration and cognitive ability
- Wellbeing and comfort
- Mood enhancement
- Increased productivity
- Healthy workplace
- Eco-friendly interiors
- Naturally toxic-free environment
- Aesthetically pleasing
Investing in your workspace means investing in your people. And, as the world of work evolves, incorporating biophilic design into your workplace is a way to stay competitive.
“With over half the worlds’s population now living in cities we are beginning to recognise the need for a shift towards human centred-design which must include bringing natural systems into our indoor and outdoor urban spaces. This enrichment will lead to so many cohesive corporate and social benefits including staff retention and engendering a spirit of environmental stewardship”
Richard Sabin, Director, Bioculture Limited
Design as a strategic tool
Design is so often an overlooked resource yet it should be considered as a strategic tool alongside functions such as marketing. There’s a clear opportunity to design your company so that the working environment supports and optimises the work that’s done.
It’s a fact that more than 130 million working days are lost each year to absence and sickness in Britain. This costs the economy in excess of £100bn per year.
It has been proven that biophilic design in the workplace increases productivity by 15%, improves staff retention, creates a reduction in absenteeism, and enhances presenteeism. All of which transposes into saving a business significant amounts of money.
(The Economics of Biophilia, Terrapin Bright Green, 2012).
The World Green Building Council suggests that 90% of typical business costs are attributed to staff, so it makes a lot of financial sense to explore biophilic design opportunities that lead to improvements in productivity and wellbeing.
Charlotte’s workplace design approach
When approaching a new biophilic workplace design, Charlotte seeks to conceptualise the spaces and leverage the rejuvenating properties of nature. She looks to weave in natural elements to stimulate positive biological and psychological responses. Her aim is for employees to feel more connected to their workplace, so that they derive higher levels of satisfaction from their careers.
Helping businesses keep their employees healthy, happy and motivated is a key motivation in Charlotte’s practice. She maximises the three key principles of biophilic design: nature, health and sustainability, bringing them together to create human-centred, healthful and holistic working environments.
These principles are delivered in the workplace via the incorporation of natural light, décor, air quality, colour palette, sound, scent, plants and materials. Biophilic design is an easy thing to implement and biophilic-designed workspaces are good to be in and ecologically friendly. They provide significant human health benefits such as lowering stress, heart rates and helping to improve sleep. The benefits are far reaching.
“On average, we spend 90,000 hours of our lives in the workplace, so it’s not difficult to see that incorporating biophilic design elements, which mimic being in nature or green spaces, can turn workspaces from stress-inducers to stress-busters.
We have never been so connected to technology and yet disconnected as human beings.
Covid-19 has removed part of our normal human nature and culture over the last year as broken habits, being in and out of the workplace has affected us greatly. Ethics, culture, connection to nature and sustainability are the key aspects that I look to impart in order to enrich the well-being of the end-user experience, transcended through creative and innovative design. I am also working to ensure that my own sustainability activities align with the UN Sustainability Development Goals.
Incorporating biophilic design into the workplace is a way to create spaces that will bring employees into the office, and help them engage with each other and their surroundings.
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on us all, altering the way we live and work and forcing us to examine the way we carry out our daily routines. It has reminded us of our instinctive need to connect with the natural world.”
Spaces that have interactive opportunities
Many industry giants like Amazon see the value of biophilic design. The spheres at their headquarters in Seattle are not merely a statement, they are there so that employees can experience nature then return to their desks refreshed and more productive.
Many leaders of industry have implemented biophilic design guidelines and created fascinating nature-focused, biophilic spaces and buildings in the process. They have seen that when people stop and communicate, it leads to new ideas and a sense of innovation, which is fundamental in driving business forward.
Fostering a sense of community in business is therefore a vital aspect for innovation. Charlotte can help create spaces in which employees can come together and collaborate. She uses biophilic design to create a sense of community in the workplace, a sense of belonging, of being and feeling an intrinsic part of the business, and working collaboratively, being part of the whole.
Leaving traditional models behind
Traditionally, the workplace has separated us from nature, our communities and the uniqueness of the place in which they are located in. This has had a negative impact on our wellbeing. By designing and re-furbishing our places of work to incorporate those elements of nature that are good for us, we can re-establish the connection between people and nature within the built environment.
More and more businesses are using a combination of open plan spaces which combined with areas for refuge and relaxation and an improved connection to nature, For instance, plants are a way to improve air quality in the workplace, particularly those that can absorb pollutants and toxins, such as Aloe Vera, Snake plants, English Ivy and the Peace Lily. A moss wall application delivers a sense of calmness to indoor spaces, acts as a sound absorbent and purifies the air.
For organizations who want to be seen to be leaders in their marketplace, competing for the most valuable employees, a biophilic workspace design can create a significant opportunity for:
- the improvement of employee wellbeing
- increased productivity
- a strengthening of competitive advantage
In their report, ‘The Economics of Biophilia’, the sustainability consulting firm, Terrapin Bright Green highlighted several examples of low level investment in biophilic design in the workplace. These included providing employees access to plants, natural views, daylight and other biophilic design elements.
Boost your sustainability credentials with a biophilic workplace
A biophilic workspace design offers a boost to HR (recruiting and retaining top talent) as well as corporate social sustainability targets. Sustainability is now vitally important and biophilic workspace design enables employees to feel, think and work effectively in environments that incorporate natural light, plants, eco materials and green office décor.
As part of Charlotte’s ethos, she works with natural and sustainable materials such as terracotta plant pots, FSC wood, living plants and recycled materials. She looks to deploy a cohesive eco-friendly design strategy, which may include elements such as toxin-free wall paint or upcycled carpet tiles.
Businesses are realising that investing in the look and feel of the workspace means investing in their employees. In order to attract and retain top talent, the workspace must reflect the business culture and the wants and needs of its employees. They now desire dynamic and inviting environments, especially as they spend the significant part of their waking day creating output and value for the business.
Having a thoughtfully designed attractive biophilic workspace sends a powerful message about your social conscience and green credibility, one that says you care about your employees and colleagues. And improving your workplace environment is said to boost staff loyalty across all generations by 53%.
Incorporating biophilic design in workplaces of all sizes
It’s possible for all workplaces, regardless of size, to incorporate biophilic design elements into their business. Introducing natural elements is an opportunity to breathe life into static, sterile environments. This ultimately allows us to feel connected to nature – and with each other.
So, we can see the significant benefits of incorporating biophilic design into the workplace from both a psychological and a practical point of view; from both a cost saving perspective and to support and enhance employee engagement. Productivity and absenteeism are two major factors that impact the bottom line and can be a large proportion of a company’s operating costs represented by human resources.
Design features such as nature-inspired art, subtle sound effects mimicking nature, imaginative use of light and shade, olfactory elements and plants are ways to bring the feeling of nature into the workspace. It’s possible to add biophilic design elements to existing workspaces without the need for significant structural alteration or compromising on space. Elements such as living walls, potted plants and furniture made from natural materials are all positive improvements. Whilst visual reminders of nature can be used to reduce stress and fatigue – an example of this is the colour green, which has a positive impact on creative performance.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that the presence of plants in a building can increase occupants’ feelings of wellbeing by as much as 40%.
Charlotte is experienced in helping businesses place an emphasis on thoughtful spatial configurations, daylight, natural ventilation strategies, a multisensory experience, views of nature, interior greenery. All of which leads to the creation of dynamic and healthful workplaces.
Biophilia in the manufacturing setting
Designing for the human experience of a manufacturing space should be the same importance as the design of the office space.
Often in a manufacturing environment, the requirements for machines and equipment take precedence over the needs of the employees who operate them. However, with full-time equivalent working hours spent in such production spaces, the human experience of that environment should be considered essential if employee health and wellbeing are firmly part of your employee focused agenda.
“Bringing daylight into a space can increase productivity through improvements in visual acuity that can reduce defects and production rates.”
Vivian Loftness, Sustainable Design for Health & Productivity, 2008
Improving cognitive function and reducing stress, which lead to gains in productivity, are desired business outcomes. Whilst in manufacturing settings there are limitations as to the incorporation of certain biophilic design elements, strategies can still be deployed to maximise natural images and patterns, colours, and areas for refuge.
When we consider attention restoration theory, bringing holistic representations of nature should lead to gains in employee productivity. Through the incorporation of patterns and design styles that mimic nature, such as fractals, honeycomb patterns, images of the natural world or wood effect flooring, factory settings can be enhanced for the benefit of the employees.
The interior layout of any working space is the basis for all productivity. Creating a harmonious working environment is about more than the creation of a well-designed space. It is somewhere we can create, concentrate and cultivate our thoughts.
‘First we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us’