How can biophilia benefit your workspace?
The idea of including plants within office design certainly isn’t new, but post-Covid biophilia really does seem to be gathering momentum.
Whether it’s statement planters, potted spider plants or even ‘living’ walls, there’s far more to biophilia than just the aesthetics. And while most designs will focus on plants, there are other biophilic elements, such as fish tanks and water features, as well as honeycomb patterns, smooth curved edges and even artificial planting and wood-effect flooring that can contribute to the overall effect.
Biophilia has several benefits both physically and emotionally
Initially the brainchild of Edward O Wilson who published a book on the subject in 1984, biophilia – ‘the love of nature and living things’ – has several benefits both physically and emotionally. These include:
Living plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis, which is of course good for us as we breathe in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis also increases air humidity by water evaporating through a plant's leaves which can obviously help to counter dry air, a common problem in offices with air conditioning. Not only that, plants are able to absorb volatile organic compounds which are often used in domestic cleaning products, can be contained within some carpets and are emitted from electronic devices.
Creativity and productivity
Studies have shown that the presence of even a few modest plants in the office can increase productivity by as much as 15%. This is thought to be achieved by triggering the engagement of employees with their workspace, as well as enhancing their efficiency and creative thought.
There is a strong relationship between levels of stress, mental health issues and cardiovascular disease, and research indicates that humans are able to alleviate stress by accessing nature. An office environment can easily create a ‘fight-or-flight’ mindset while also causing the body’s parasympathetic system to be suppressed, and this can result in a draining of energy and mental fatigue. This combination can lead to stress, frustration, irritability and distraction. Conversely, interaction with nature generates a rise in sympathetic activity, in turn reducing stress and irritability.
Happiness and health
It will come as little surprise that biophilia can lead to a more positive state of mind among office workers, and this can be infectious. Live plants may on this basis contribute to a reduction in sick leave and absenteeism, which can only be positive for business.
Talent recruitment and retention
A workspace that’s designed thoughtfully with an emphasis on natural daylight and biophilic elements speaks volumes about an organisation’s culture and philosophy. In addition, it underlines a commitment both to the environment and to employees’ physical and mental welfare, all of which is likely to improve talent recruitment and retention.
For Carol Chinn, Design Partner at The Workspace Consultants, plants have been a central strand of office design for many years but the broader concept of biophilia is something that is being discussed more regularly. ‘We spend a large amount of time at work, so the environment and experience need to be as positive as possible,’ comments Carol. ‘As well as creating inspiring spaces with dedicated zones, contemporary furniture and pleasing colour schemes, adding plants into the mix is a great way to make your teams feel more comfortable, more valued and healthier. Increasingly, we’re talking to clients about how to embrace biophilia as a commercially sound investment because we know that they will begin to reap the rewards from day one.’