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Using Biophilic Design for Office Productivity

Nature helps.

Plan A is constantly looking for ways to make our own workplace, as well as other companies, sustainable and in tune with the environment. In doing so we establish our campaigns and initiatives with a mindset directed to the natural setting around us. Our current campaign against plastics aims to unclog our minds from our addiction to this material. Speaking of clearing the mind, we wish to introduce you to a new mindset: nature as a necessity.

Welcome to the concept of Biophilic Design.  This is something manageable that can be incorporated into a work environment immediately, in stages, and most importantly, in a cost-effective manner.  The underlying concept is simple: we are at our most productive and balanced point as human beings when we are in a natural, outdoor environment. In other words, we are in our Zen when we are with nature!

vertical gardening in the park
Just chill in the green (Credit: Rameshng)

The positive effect on our bodies, when exposed to nature, is indisputable. The challenge is the fact that an office worker spends 90% of his time indoors. How can you take advantage of the benefits nature offers then? The answer is biophilic design.

What is Biophilic Design?

Biophilia is the idea that humans click with nature. Biophilic design uses natural light, vegetation, and other feelgood natural perks to spark productivity and promote health with us humans. How do you like the sound of rain? The smell of wet forests, or the view of a flock of birds?

Biophillic design offers the bases for a working space to make it more:

  • Healthy
  • Efficient
  • Pleasant
  • Attractive
  • Productive
  • Soothing
  • Invigorating

These are all characteristics that workers, patients, students, tenants, clients, and employees want in their environments.  Based on your space and your needs, you can use biophilic design principles to achieve these environmental goals.

For example, a hospital may want the hallways and common areas in the children’s area to be vibrant, exciting and engaging, while the recovery rooms should be calming, soothing and pleasant.  These traits can be achieved using biophilic design principles. We outlined 6 principles that can be adapted, tweaked and turned to your liking, and only limited by your imagination!

Get Touchy

Textures are in.  Like, really in. Getting your hands on a surface and feeling something besides a cold, polished slab is incredibly engaging.  To sit at a counter or walk across a floor with some level of texture is inherently more fulfilling than a glossy, crumb showing, streak revealing, pristine piece of fake nature. Warm, textured surfaces are key to getting those in the space involved in the space.

Get a fish tank

Nemo (although we all want him free in the movie) will really bring a smile to the faces of the occupants (both inside and out of their respective tanks). The natural effects of the water, the organic, non-rhythmic movement of the fish, and the inferred connection to the ocean are all biophilic principles in action. Not all fish are good to keep in a fish tank. To know how to keep your fish bowl green and actually useful for conservation, check this great eco guide to pet fish. A biophilic storm in a teacup.

Get some plants

The easiest way to get to nature is to add plants. There are many plant varieties that work well indoors, even if you don’t have the best natural light. Any succulent can do like Aloe, but Peace Lillies and even a fern works. Plants have the added benefit of purifying the air too. Did you know indoor air was roughly 4x more polluted than the exterior’s? Also, it’s important to name your plants and talk to them with great love and care. A proven therapy for anger management, stress relief, and charisma (true story).

Fakin’ it Till you Make it

Maybe you can’t make sandy beaches, oceans, palm trees and rolling clouds a reality in an office but you can emulate them. Carpet, light fixtures and wall design all offer options that copy nature, while not being the exact element, you are at least trying to get there. Professional beachgoer tip: get some sand in a little box, place it under your desk lamp. You are now the proud owner of a miniature, bonsai-style Copacabana beach to play with/on. Other advantage: add water to have the perfect material for sand castle. Not to be missed.

Lighten up

Basic exposure to light is proven to be beneficial.  Incorporating natural light into a workspace and giving views of the outdoors to people is an automatic win. It reengages the body, connects the mind to nature, and calms both of them. Multiple studies show the many benefits of adding natural light. Never mind that it cuts down your electric bill. Plus, if you colour the room right, it will brighten your room like your smile does, and bring natural colours indoors. More and more new spaces take into account the sunlight orientation and the seasonal shifts to design the most efficient and nature-full buildings possible.

Take it Down a Notch or Two

Read the sign, apply, relax. (Credit: Mora Bird)

Turn the volume down a little. Incorporating sound control fosters well-being. New products for acoustic control include both colour and shape (think acoustical blue and white clouds emulating a skyscape). A toned environment helps everybody create calmer arguments, cooler conversations and puts the emphasis on the people rather than the decoration. Non-distracted, happy, inspired employees are far more productive, so foster them with healthier work environments. Remember to open doors though for a nice breeze and open mind!

Those are 6 easy ways, but there are hundreds more.  With 6 or 600, you can start small and go big with Biophilic Design.  That is the beauty of it. Well, that and all the materials that can be used to achieve it are free with just an open window and open blinds. Another method is to involve your employees in the cleaning of their workplace from plastics. Learn how to do more against single-use plastics that clog up trash and the workplace.

Plan A endorses these methods to promote the best working environment in its own space. By practising environmental mindfulness in your working environment, you’ll naturally apply the same talents to the rest of the world. Which is kind of urgent by now. Each step towards nature is a victory for our planet. Let’s bring it back all the way to our desk!

The original version of this article was published on Caragreen‘s blog. Caragreen is a distributor of sustainable materials.

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