Boosting productivity with biophilic office design

biophilic office design

At Officeworks we firmly believe that employers should be embracing a design approach that puts the wellbeing of office workers at its core. Here we explain the benefits of a biophilic design in the workplace and why a growing number of employers are bringing nature into the workplace.

What is Biophilia?

Biophilia is a concept first popularised by Edward O. Wilson in 1984, and describes the innate relationship between humans and nature. In a nutshell, biophilic design is the use of natural elements to enhance buildings.

With today’s focus on health and wellbeing both at home and in the office it has never been more important to design spaces that inspire, energise and support the people who use them.

How biophilic office design is beneficial

Psychologist Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University led a study which found that simply adding houseplants to sparse offices increased staff productivity by 15%.

A global study into the impact of office design by Human Spaces found that working in offices with natural light, good ventilation and plants saw a 15% higher subjective wellbeing and a 6% productivity increase. They also found staff were more likely to feel happy and inspired and less likely to feel bored or anxious when entering a biophilic workplace.

Importantly, the report also found that office design was so important to workers that a third (33%) of respondents said that it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere.

Conversely, the same report also found that in European offices, 47% of employees have no natural light, 55% don’t have access to greenery and 7% have no windows.

What does a biophilic office look like?

Biophilic design is more than a ‘nice to have’. The use of nature to harness employees full potential is becoming an essential aspect of modern, progressive office space. Businesses investing heavily in the approach include Apple with Campus 2 and Google’s Dublin Campus.

How do you actually utilise biophilic design for your office? Here are the three main principles, with some examples for each.

Nature in the space
This is about bringing actual nature into the building. For example:

  • Pot plants on desks
  • Living green walls
  • Water features
  • Fresh air circulation
  • Natural light
  • Window views to trees, landscapes or water
  • Sound of birdsong or water
  • Fish in aquariums.

Nature of the space
This is about the configuration of the workspace. For example:

  • Cosy, private workspaces like small rooms or sheltered nooks
  • Open-plan collaboration spaces
  • Balconies and atriums with views from a height

Natural elements
This is about using human-manufactured elements that mimic natural forms in some way. For example:

  • Wood, stone or slate finishes
  • Artwork depicting plants, animals, landscapes
  • Shades of green, blue, yellow and brown
  • Floral patterns
  • Circular shapes and curved lines

If you have the opportunity to design your ideal office from scratch or undergo a major renovation, you’ll be able to utilise all of these ideas. But we know most business people are working within a more limited environment.

Even if you’re just renting a small office within a commercial unit you can’t control, you can still employ some biophilic office design techniques. For example, you could add a potted plant on every desk, put up prints of nature photography on the walls and arrange the furniture in a way that creates partially enclosed private workstations in the corners and a collaborative ‘break-out’ area in the centre. When choosing an office to rent, consider the importance of windows.