Improving Mental Health & Wellbeing in the workplace with Biophilic Design

Biophilic design

Biophilia is the ‘innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.’[1] As humans, we tend to find comfort and relaxation in natural surroundings. As such, more and more companies are bringing the natural, outside world into the office setting, in what is known as ‘biophilic office design’.

Biophilic design bridges the gap between the traditional workspace aesthetic and the lush hue of the natural world. The simple presence of plant life, natural light, and earthy tones in an office space can transform the atmosphere into one of enhanced mood, greater workplace happiness, and increased productivity. 

Biophilic design has proven to improve employee satisfaction in the workplace.[2] Feeling closer to nature can improve employees’ sense of well-being and ultimately makes employees happier to come to work. The work environment can sometimes be stressful. Things such as green plants and natural light can help reduce stress and improve your employee workflow. 

Urbanisation – the movement of people and work into towns and cities, has been steadily rising over the past 500 years. Prior to urbanisation, most of us lived rurally.[3]

According to Our World in Data, over half of the world’s population lived in towns and cities as of 2007. Reports show that by 2016, over 80 per cent of the UK lived in urban areas.[4]

We have been moving further and further away from nature. Unfortunately, this distance from our natural surroundings, our roots, is detrimental to our physical and mental health. We need to stay connected to nature as much as possible to satisfy our animal brain. In response to increasing urbanisation and the effects that has been having on employee well-being in the workplace, many companies are leading the way forward with the biophilic office design. 

Biophilic design

How to Use Biophilic Design in the Workplace

  • Utilise natural light
  • Use outdoor spaces
  • Choose colour wisely
  • Use natural features
  • Add plants to your space

Colour has a strong influence on our mental state. Red is an exciting colour and can encourage creativity. Blue has calming properties and can promote employee well-being.

Biophilic design incorporates earthy greens and browns, sky blues, and other natural colours and textures in the office space.[5] Colours, textures, and tones can help us feel grounded and reduce perceived stress in the workplace atmosphere. 

Bring the outdoors indoors with natural features such as stone and wood. These features bring natural textures to the office space, mimicking the outdoors. 

Biophilic design incorporates living systems and natural processes in the work environment. This includes natural materials, natural light, vegetation, and natural landscapes.[6] It speaks to the ‘instinctive bond between human beings and all other living systems.’[7]

Common elements of biophilic design include:

  • Visual elements
  • Auditory elements
  • Olfactory elements
  • Texture
  • Thermal variability
  • Natural light
  • Water
Biophilic design

Why Choose Biophilic Office Design?

The use of biophilic office design is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace, and for good reason. Several studies have reported significant workplace benefits following the implementation of a biophilic design. Staff productivity, retention, creativity and morale increase when the work environment incorporates natural elements. A recent report in Human Space explains that biophilic design in the workplace decreases staff mental fatigue and increases well-being.[8]

There are many benefits to incorporating biophilic design into your place of work. One study reports on increased productivity in the workplace. According to The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Office Space, staff working with exposure to natural elements were up to 15 per cent more productive than those without natural elements in the workplace.[9] This 15 per cent increase in work productivity may result from improved air quality in the workspace, greater concentration, and greater employee well-being due to a biophilic environment. 

Biophilic design

Green Spaces for Improved Mental Health

Any good business considers their employee’s mental health in the workplace. Mental health issues are one of the leading causes of workplace absence in the UK. When you incorporate biophilic design into the workplace, you improve employee well-being, reduce the rate of absence, and increase employee retention.

According to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, ‘a view of green space may help to build capacities for better mental health, contribute to restoration of depleted cognitive capacities, enhance recovery from periods of psychosocial stress, and even increase optimism.’[10]

Stress is common in the workplace and has a negative impact on your workflow. Biophilic design reduces workplace stress, thereby improving your output and keeping your employees positive. 

Biophilic design

In Conclusion

This week, the 10th to the 16th of May, is International Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. The Mental Health Foundation has themed this year’s awareness week ‘nature’. As more of us are working in urban areas, and especially now in our home offices, it is a perfect time to incorporate some elements of biophilic design into your space. The concept is simple – more green, more natural light, more connection with nature – but the results are profound. 

mental health and nature

The Author…

Jane Kisnica

Marketing Assistant, Oyster Partnership

Jane joined Oyster Partnership in November 2017 as a receptionist. She started showing her artistic flair and enthusiasm for all things marketing soon after joining the business. Since then she has worked hard and built her way up from being a receptionist to running the marketing department at Oyster Partnership.

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[1] Krčmářová, Jana. (2009). E.O. Wilson’s concept of biophilia and the environmental movement in the USA. Kladyán. 6. 4-17. 

[2] Topgül, Seda. (2019). The Impact of Biophilic Design on Workers Efficiency

[3] Ritchie, Hannah, and Max Roser. “Urbanization”. Our World In Data, 2018, https://ourworldindata.org/urbanization. Accessed 7 May 2021.

[4] Ritchie, Hannah, and Max Roser. “Urbanization”. Our World In Data, 2018, https://ourworldindata.org/urbanization. Accessed 7 May 2021.

[5] “Key Principles Of Biophilic Design In Interiors & Architecture — Biofit Natural Health & Fitness”. Biofit Natural Health & Fitness, https://biofit.io/news/key-principles-biophilic-interiors-architecture. Accessed 7 May 2021.

[6] Topgül, Seda. (2019). The Impact of Biophilic Design on Workers Efficiency. 

[7] Topgül, Seda. (2019). The Impact of Biophilic Design on Workers Efficiency. 

[8] “Human Spaces | Human Spaces”. Human Spaces, http://humanspaces.com/report/the-impact-of-biophilia/. Accessed 7 May 2021.

[9] Nieuwenhuis, Marlon et al. “The Relative Benefits Of Green Versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments.”. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Applied, vol 20, no. 3, 2014, pp. 199-214. American Psychological Association (APA), doi:10.1037/xap0000024. Accessed 7 May 2021.

[10] Astell-Burt, Thomas, and Xiaoqi Feng. “Association Of Urban Green Space With Mental Health And General Health Among Adults In Australia”. JAMA Network Open, vol 2, no. 7, 2019, p. e198209. American Medical Association (AMA), doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.8209. Accessed 7 May 2021.

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