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How Biophilic Design Can Improve Workplace Health and Wellness

Posted on Jul 15, 2016, by Michael Eckert

There’s an unseen epidemic sweeping through US workplaces: ‘presenteeism’. The costs of absent employees are well known, but it’s estimated that the costs of unfocused and unproductive employees are as much as 30% greater.

The only way to tackle the problem is to improve health and wellness, and help employees feel switched-on and happy at work. Importantly, this is something you can play a big part in: by building health and wellness into the fabric of your office design, and leveraging a design trend that’s been shown to boost wellbeing and productivity in the workplace. Today, I’m looking at the benefits of biophilic design.

Featured image: CA Technologies, Herzilya,, Tel Aviv, Israel

What is Biophilic Design?

Biophilia is a love (philia, the opposite of phobia) of living things (bio), and biophilic design is the practice of incorporating elements of nature into, in this instance, the workplace. By leveraging the natural world, designers are able to capitalize on humanity’s deep-seated affinity with nature to improve the wellbeing of everyone in the working environment.

Research has found that views of nature, and access to greenery and natural lighting, help employees feel less stressed and frustrated, and better able to focus effectively during work. After incorporating biophilic design into the workplace, other studies have recorded an immediate 13% boost to wellbeing, and an 8% increase to productivity.

Despite the impressive benefits possible, few workplaces incorporate any element of biophilia into their design:

  • 42% of employees had no natural light in their workspace.
  • 55% had no access to greenery.
  • 7% had no windows in their workspace.

However, this presents you with an incredible opportunity – using smart design choices to have a real impact on health, wellness and productivity.  

How to Incorporate Biophilic Design into Your Next Office Project

1)      Maximize Natural Lighting

Sunlight has a huge impact on health and wellness, helping to regulate the body’s sleeping patterns and circadian rhythms. This can translate into some pretty stunning statistics: people with windows in their workplace receive 173% more beneficial white light during work, and slept an average of 46 minutes more, each and every night. This means that natural light has a direct impact on sleep quality at home, and productivity and focus in the workplace.

Thankfully, open office design is a great way to maximize natural light, allowing you to keep the number of light-blocking cubicles and dividers to a bare minimum. By positioning work stations near windows, and replacing opaque dividers with transparent or translucent glass dividers, you can ensure that natural light extends as far into the building as possible.

2)      Experiment with Murals

Sometimes a coat of fresh paint can be enough to improve health and wellness. Murals depicting mountain scenes, sunsets and open fields can help employees feel less tense, making them an ideal choice for reception areas and breakout spaces. Even the simple use of accent colors can help: with the incorporation of bright, bold colors helping to remind people of the natural world.

3)      Incorporate Plants and Greenery into Your Design

Few things communicate a sense of nature as effectively as plants and greenery. Plants also have a beneficial secondary side-effect: they’re great at absorbing sound. Disruptive noise levels are a real problem in open office environments, and often, the combination of a handful of plants, and sound absorbing carpet tiles, can work wonders for productivity and focus.

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Topics: Health & Wellness

Michael Eckert

Written by Michael Eckert