There are many different approaches to designing and building an office. In the past decade or two, a wealth of research has provided fantastic direction, ensuring that modern offices are more efficient and productive than ever before. Work and design techniques like agile working, activity-based working, and flexible working are now commonplace.
Research has also proven time and time again that natural elements in the workplace are also incredibly valuable. That means integrating plants, natural lighting, and even water features where appropriate, into your workplace. This is referred to as biophilic design.
Below, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about biophilic design, and how it can help create a better workplace for your business and your employees.
What is biophilic design?
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of biophilia is as follows:
‘A hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature : a desire or tendency to commune with nature’.
In the workplace, this desire can be satisfied by integrating natural elements into the construction and design of your office. As mentioned above, that tends to be typified by plants, but also includes natural light and even water. When you do include biophilic design in your workplace, you can expect to see some fantastic benefits.
What are the benefits of biophilic office design?
Research has shown that biophilic design comes with a host of significant benefits for businesses and workers.
Lower stress levels
Employees who are visually exposed to plants while working have been shown to be happier and less stressed. This article that appeared on CNN references Japanese research, proving that a simple plant on your desk can reduce stress levels significantly. Taking that into account, placing a large number of plants throughout the workplace results in stress reduction for much of your workforce.
Less stress at work is always a fantastic result. You should want your employees to enjoy spending time in the office, not dreading it. Therefore, every measure should be taken to create a relaxing and enjoyable space for your people. When this is the priority, your employees will be much more relaxed at work, and your business will thrive.
Improved air quality
While it’s true that a large number of plants is necessary to clean the air, you can make minor improvements to office air quality. By choosing the right types of plants and placing them strategically, you can have a small effect on the quality of air in your office. Some research does support the idea that plants help to reduce illness in the office.
However, the conflicting school of thought states that plants don’t really have an impact on the air quality of an office unless you have 1000 plants in a 10-foot by 10-foot space! At the end of the day though, there’s no downside to implementing plants into your office and creating a truly green office fit-out.
Happier workers are better communicators. Great communication is essential in every single office and every kind of business. Therefore, you should be doing everything in your power to craft an office that promotes improved communication and stronger working relationships between staff. Plants can form part of this strategy. Greenery reduces stress and helps to create a happier workforce. Therefore, it contributes to better communication between employees, management, and even clients.
More productive staff
Plants in the office have been shown to improve productivity among staff. This study found that integrating plants into a lean office increased productivity by 15%, no small figure! Every business should be taking steps to boost productivity in a healthy, sustainable way. Therefore, biophilia may well be the answer.
Another study showed immense benefits in Norwegian offices, when plants were included in the workplace. Productivity was again increased, while employees were happier, experienced better working relationships with one another, and were much less stressed. All of this combines to create a more productive workforce, and business.
Neighbourhoods in the office
Creating ‘neighbourhoods’ in the office is almost an entire topic in itself, but it does tie into biophilia. Neighbourhoods essentially refer to different working environments and areas. They might be categorised by the type of work that takes place in the area, the teams that are allocated to each space, or the approach to work that is prioritised in each space.
Some examples of how neighbourhoods are determined are:
- Job roles, positions, and teams
- Different projects
- Activity-based working
- Equipment and room access.
Biophilia can, and does play an important role in creating neighbourhoods. For instance, if one area is allocated to quiet and relaxing working, plants should be included. They are also excellent natural acoustic barriers, which add to the effectiveness of the quiet space. Natural light is essential here too, for maintaining employee health and keeping spirits up.
What are the best office plants?
There are so many different types of plants to choose from. Below, we’ll take a look at four plants best suited to the office environment.
The Peace Lily is a great addition to any office. It has thick, dark green leaves and flowers at regular intervals if healthy. It’s also very easy to tell when this plant needs water, so it’s not too difficult to care for. It does well inside offices and homes.
Pothos are like a mini jungle in your office! And they are very self-sufficient plants, meaning they don’t require too much attention. Again, in a busy workplace, this is ideal… because people might forget to water them! It does better out of bright areas, so don’t place them right by the windows.
The Snake Plant is much friendlier than it sounds. Technically, it’s a succulent, which makes it nigh on impossible to inadvertently kill. They do well in a pet-free office because the Snake Plant is toxic to animals.
Succulents are incredibly hardy plants, and notoriously tough to kill. This makes them ideal for any office, including ones where they may not be watered often! They’re fantastic little desk plants, and larger succulents can be placed around the office.
Let’s talk about light
While plants are the feature most commonly associated with biophilic office design, light is another element that plays an important part. Light is part of the natural environment that we as humans need to be exposed to. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the lighting in your office.
Biophilic or green office design must offer a combination of greenery, lighting, and of course, sustainable materials. Lighting is essential because it helps to maintain circadian rhythms, essential for your sleeping patterns and overall health. Therefore, you must work with an expert office design company to get the best out of your lighting design.
Natural lighting should always be the priority. It’s this lighting that creates a better working environment for all and contributes to healthier employees. Adequate natural lighting reduces eye strain, boosts employees’ immune systems, aids better sleep, and overall, makes your workplace far more attractive.
Increasing natural light in your office can be difficult – it’s not exactly easy to knock down the walls and install new windows. However, you can take steps to ensure that natural light has an unimpeded path through your office. Do this by optimising your layout, making sure partitions and workstations aren’t blocking light, and even by utilising mirrors to increase the reach of the natural rays.
If you can’t make the most of natural lighting, LED lighting is the next best option. Many assume that LED equals harsh, white light, but this is not the case at all. In fact, there is an extensive range of different warm and light globes that you can choose for your workplace. These will create a light-filled office, whereby your employees can reap the benefits of better lighting.
LED lighting is also incredibly energy efficient, using up to 90% less energy than traditional light bulbs. Every business should be aiming to reduce energy consumption, and utilising LED lighting is a great way to do so. However, natural lighting should always be the aim, because it’s free, and is fantastic for the physical and mental health of your people.
Green office design in Sydney
Biophilic office design comes with a range of enormous benefits, as we’ve discussed above. If you’re looking for an expert Sydney office design and construction company, Niche Projects is ready to help. We love working with our clients, to achieve their aims, and ensure that their workplace is optimised for employee wellbeing.
Looking for green office design Sydney? Get in touch with us today.