Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking in a forest with heightened senses. What you experience is limitless from the dried leaves crumbling under your feet, the rough textures of abandoned tree barks to the fresh scents of pine. As humans, we possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, otherwise known as biophilia hypothesis. We inherently put our focus on life and life-like processes as it is an integral step in our development as individuals and as species. So why not provide a similar range of possibilities in the workplace?
A workplace, traditionally known to be a room full of cubicles and rigid partitions with the sole purpose of working, has now completely transformed in its definition and utilization. It has now become a place employees seek to relax and work comfortably. With 83% of the US workers suffering from work-related stress and anxiety, it's time for employers to start creating a workplace environment that not just neutralizes their employees' overall health but rather enhances it. The start? Biophilic Designs.
Many past studies have shown and proven the benefits of nature, or mimics of nature, on human well-being. Its' benefits range from reduced anger, fear, and stress to stronger sense of connection and empathy towards others. Recognizing how detrimental disconnection to nature can have on employees' overall health, today's architects aim to reconnect employees with surrounding life - an innovative way to accommodate for employees' needs while also bringing them back into the office.
Simply put, utilizing a biophilic approach to workplace design means placing natural elements throughout the office space. It means designing environments that mimic the randomness and disarray of natural settings. It means giving the brain an opportunity to reset by triggering different parts of the brain with nature. Simply using the building configuration to expose employees to as much direct natural light as possible or even placing natural light lamps around the office can leave profound impacts on the office environment. Further simulating natural environment in workplaces can range from utilizing plants through living walls and green roofs to thoughtfully placing minimally processed textures of nature (e.g., wood and stones) or installing indoor water features for pleasant natural aromas.
"Nature is not just something that you travel to visit on a holiday. It has to be integrated into the living and workspaces around you where you spend most of your time." - Timothy Beatley, Professor at University of Virginia
A study in 2020 found incorporating elements of nature to improve overall well- being by up to 15% - one of many studies linking nature to positive effects. Biophilia describes the inherent human connection we have to the natural world and living systems. Through this idea, more and more workplaces have adapted biophilic designs in their physical environment, not only improving the physical and mental well-being of their employees, but also adding to better provide the office perks. It's time we look at nature as a proven solution rather than a mere option.