The health and wellbeing of a company’s workforce is integral to building a sustainable brand and retaining top talent. Because of this, the millennial workforce has pushed companies to alter office spaces to better fit their needs. One-third of office workers said the design of an office would affect their decision to work for a company; given this, brands are choosing to renovate or move to new spaces in an effort to improve the way their employees work and attract new talent. As Gensler recently revealed in its 2016 Workplace Forecast, urban workforces will continue to reshape work and its settings for the foreseeable future. As these trends continue, workplace design has become a key area to consider, and biophilic design – the notion of bringing natural elements to the interiors – has become the answer.
Over the past three to five years, biophilic design has reached a fever pitch – with aspects showing up in well-known corporate spaces, such as offices for Google, Amazon and Facebook. Additionally, it can be prominently found in leading hotel brands such as Starwood and especially in the evidence-based design world of healthcare environments. It’s becoming popular for good reason: When incorporated into the workplace, biophilic design can help reduce workers’ stress and enhance their creativity.
It starts with biophilia – a concept that suggests there’s an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. More specifically, it suggests that we have a need to connect with nature and that nature can impact how we think, act and feel.
According to a study conducted by Interface, The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, those who work in environments with natural elements reported a 15 percent higher level of creativity, a 15 percent higher level of wellbeing and a 6 percent higher level of productivity than those with who work in environments with no connection to nature. Because of these benefits, professionals are increasingly planning and designing places that incorporate natural elements into the interiors.
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Some elements of biophilic design, such as providing natural sunlight, may not be feasible for some organizations due to the constraints of their current building, or their overall design budget. But there are ways of mimicking nature indoors and arranging work environments to deliver the same benefits as the real thing.
For example, there is no such thing a “right angle” in nature. Specifiers are rediscovering the inherent beauty of a “live edge,” which embraces the natural movements in wood for tables and other key pieces of furniture. Additionally, companies can choose nature-inspired carpet, stone floors, or exposed wood trusses to bring the feeling of nature into the space, ensuring users reap the benefits of biophilic design.
One company that successfully incorporated biophilic design into its workspace is Meridian Credit Union, Ontario’s largest credit union. The company created a walking path around the perimeter of its office known as Meridian Mile – a lap that equates to one mile when completed 14 times. The patterning of the carpet tile for the Meridian Mile, provided by Interface, is varied intentionally to replicate the feeling of a pathway in a park, not only incorporating biophilic design, but also encouraging an active lifestyle and inspiring wellbeing within the workplace.
Nature has a beneficial and restorative effect on people – and research shows that productivity is impacted significantly by our surroundings. With biophilic design, organizations have a tremendous opportunity to set themselves apart from the competition by creating an environment designed for employees to thrive.