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Nature inspired office design increases productivity by at least 15%

Nature inspired office design increases productivity by at least 15%

A university study showed that adding pot plants to an office increases productivity by 15%.1 If a few plants can do that, just imagine the benefits of a complete office fit-out that has been holistically inspired by nature! Biophilia, which literally means “love of living things”, is at the heart of a growing office design trend to reconnect people with nature during their working day. Evoke Projects looks at the benefits of biophilia and how you can introduce natural elements during your next office fit-out or office refurbishment.

Let’s start with some numbers

  • A study showed 47 per cent of employees felt tired or very tired due to an absence of natural light at work. 2
  • Memory tests showed a 20% improvement amongst participants who had walked around an arboretum, compared to those who walked around the city.3
  • One third of office workers said that the design of an office would affect their decision to work at a company.4
  • In a call centre, a change in workstation angles to improve natural views cost about US$1,000 per occupant, but resulted in a 6% increase in call processing capacity, or about a US$3,000 return per occupant.5
  • A case study at the University of Oregon indicated that biophilic architecture reduced absenteeism for office workers, in their case by 10 per cent.6

These statistics show that biophilic office design has a real impact on people: attracting the best of the best, improving performance and reducing absenteeism. And don’t be tempted to write it off as a new short-term fad to appeal to the Millennial workforce. The concept of biophilic office design was popularised by Edward O. Wilson back in 1984, and it has been well studied ever since. Microsoft and Amazon are key proponents, incorporating tree houses and flora spheres in their latest office fit-outs.

The science behind biophilia

A nature-inspired office fit-out or refurbishment will include better light and air quality which will bring health benefits. Nature stimulates the body’s parasympathetic nervous system to release hormones which decrease blood pressure and heart rate, leading to calmness and relaxation. Even short bursts of relaxation (e.g. watching the clouds or a bird in flight) energise the body and increase productivity for the next task at hand.

“Forest bathing”, a Japanese health therapy that involves mindful forest walks, shows the positive relationship between nature and health. Forest bathing has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure and improve concentration, memory, sleep patterns, mood, and creativity.7 One study showed leisurely forest walks yielded a 12.4 per cent decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, compared with urban walks.8 Forest bathing has also been reported to increase natural killer (NK) cell activity and intracellular anticancer proteins, suggesting an improvement to the immune system.9

Implementing biophilic office design

Whether you are embarking on a major new office fit-out or a minor office refurbishment, there are many ways you can add biophilic elements within the office design.

  1. Introduce plants into the office fit-out and try to give everybody a plentiful view of them. You can also buy office storage solutions with built-in planter boxes.
  2. Create a calming outdoor space with water features, plants, trees and rustic furniture. Even a balcony can be transformed into a natural retreat. If you are in a high-rise building, it’s still possible to refurbish an office to create an ‘indoor-outdoor’ space with palm fronds, essential oils, wicker furniture and trickling mini water fountains. Don’t you feel relaxed already?
  3. Find ways to increase views of nature and daylight exposure when planning your next office fit-out. The WELL Building Standard™ recommends limits are placed on the distance workstations are from a window:
    a. 75% of all workstations are within 7.5 m of an atrium or a window with views to the exterior.
    b. 95% of all workstations are within 12.5 m of an atrium or a window with views to the exterior.
  4. Embrace nature and minimise exposure to volatile organic compounds by using natural materials such as sustainably-sourced timber during your next office fit-out or refurbishment.
  5. If the outdoor air around your building is good quality, the simple act of opening windows will be a breath of fresh air, literally.
  6. Use colours or artwork that invoke nature. A study showed that 67 per cent of respondents felt happy when walking into bright office environments accented with green, yellow or blue.10

Evoke Projects can help you plan your next office fit-out or office refurbishment with biophilic design elements to improve well-being and productivity in your workplace. Please call our office design team on 1300 720 692.

1. Study by the University of Exeter; the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the University of Queensland, Australia.
3. citing Berman M, Kross E, Krpan K, et al. Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. J Affective Disorders 2012;140(3):300-305. [Full text]
4, 10.
5. The Economics of Biophilia, a report authored by Terrapin Bright Green
9. citing Li Q. Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function. Environ Health Prev Med 2009;15(1):9-17. [Full text]

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