It is no secret that the quintessential employee of today is stressed; stressed about work, stressed about finances, stressed about personal life, and stressed about balancing all of this. This stress not only impacts the health of the individual in question, but also affects the productivity and efficiency of employee. As a result, it is not surprising that several companies are focussing on the wellness of their employees, and reaching out to them in different ways.
Incorporating Nature in Offices: The Basics
While a lot of wellness programmes work around establishing work-life balance, an important factor is often missed out on, in this discourse. The design and ambience of an office has an important yet subtle impact on the individuals that work in it, and employers have largely left the basic interior design of an office unchanged for decades, although trends like open offices are reportedly increasing all over the world (and also facing backlash). However, organisations are also slowly waking up to realise the many benefits of incorporating nature, natural and nature-identical elements in their offices.
The incorporation of nature in offices is rooted in the principle of biophilia, the innate affinity of humans to connect and feel like a part of the natural world, with other living creatures and systems. Biophilic designs are fast catching the imagination of big players and entrepreneurs alike. A global study to comprehend the effects of design by Human Spaces established the positive relationship between nature at work and increased productivity. The Human Spaces Global Report, undertaken with about 7,600 workers in 16 countries found that employees working in spaces wit green or natural features reported a 15% higher level of wellbeing, and are also 6% more productive, in addition to being 15% more creative. It also said that office design was essential to 33% of the workers, and would invariably affect their decision to work in the organisation or not. In India, this figure was the highest at 67%.
It is not about simply incorporating a ficus tree in your office space, but increasing access to natural light, air and ensuring your employees are exposed to sunlight. This will have immeasurable benefits on their productivity and health. Studies (like these) have shown that increasing access to sunlight and natural elements at workplace results in better moods and higher satisfaction, and better commitment. Furthermore, reduction in stress, improving recovery and warding off depression were the benefits of viewing a natural view while working, as opposed to a plain wall.
Biophilic Designs in Nascence
Google and Amazon have already tapped into this territory and are betting on their new and natural office designs to improve the wellbeing and productivity of their employees. However, it is not just the giants that are leading the change. Tweaking your office to incorporate biophilic designs can be done on the most shoe-string budget, using (as ironic as it may sound) technology. Virtual projections, wallpapers that mimic natural patterns and movement, and screens that replicate nature and natural surroundings are also some ways in which organisations have been experimenting. Although extensive research and studies are not available around biophilic designs in office, but expertise, resources and knowledge on adapting biophilic designs in offices is aplenty. Going forward however, it can be expected that there will be an increasing demand by employers to include nature-inspired designs, patterns and colours while designing their offices.
Incorporating designs that are natural, or mimic nature broadly depends on two factors. One, how much scope and flexibility is available to make changes in the existing design, and the second, the extent up to which one feels the need to incorporate such designs. “People just don’t like fluorescent lights in a building with no plants, no views, no natural lighting... The Key is for companies to engage with their employees. Ask them what nature-inspired changes they desire. No. 1, they'll like being asked, but No. 2, they'll come up with really clever ideas about what you might do,” says Sir Cary Cooper CBE, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester, who led the Human Spaces Global Report.
To sum up, a slow, yet steady change is taking place in the way employers and companies are designing their offices to allow integration of nature. With the many benefits on offer, the trend is only likely to catch up from here on. Incorporating nature not only has an immediate and more visible impact on employees’ health and productivity, but comes with several secondary benefits as well. For example, allowing maximum natural light to percolate in office will cut on bills. At the end of the day, what matters is the commitment of the employer in ensuring the wellness of the employee, and if they are willing to incorporate nature in their offices.
Do you work in an office that has biophilic designs? What is your experience? Let us know in the comments!