Biophilic Design in the Office: The Nature Inspired Workplace

There’s nothing better than the feeling of being outside in fresh air absorbing the nature around you. From the beach, to the mountains, to the neighborhood park, to your own back yard, being outdoors surrounded by light and nature is invigorating and inspiring.

But what do you do if you work in an office? How do you stay connected and grounded to the world around you while you spend your days inside, under artificial lighting, staring at computer screens for eight hours plus a day?

Over the last few years the concept of biophilic design, or nature inspired design, has become a key element in modern architecture and office design as companies seek to find new ways to engage, motivate, and retain their best assets; their employees, and the human capital they possess.

To understand biophilic design, you must first understand the concept of biophilia. According the Merriam-Webster dictionary biophilia is defined as a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature. This concept was first noted by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm in his book the Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973) and it was later popularized by the Harvard Biologist Edward O. Wilson in his book Biophilia (1984).

Biophilic design therefore seeks to connect our inherent need for nature, with our modern lifestyle; which sees us spending an increasingly large amount of time indoors, at work, and at home. By infusing a combination of nature, natural patterns, and design elements inspired by human nature, the biophilia approach to workplace design aims to create a space where humans can feel relaxed, engaged, and connected to the world around them. With office workers spending the vast majority of their waking hours inside the office, the importance of creating a balance between the inside and out is critical for the needs of a modern workforce.

Bringing the Outside In

One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of biophilic design is plants in the office. While this is one aspect of it, there are many other sources of nature that factor into the equation: natural lighting that keeps us connected to our circadian rhythms, water, which simultaneously calms and stimulates due to its unique properties, and airflow that invigorates and helps us focus– all play a part. Biophilc design is a multi-sensory experience, seeing nature, feeling nature, hearing it, and smelling it, all factor into the choice of materials used in the workplace. Wood desks, textured surfaces, water features, and windows that open up allowing fresh air in, are all office design elements that engage the senses and offer numerous benefits to office workers.

The GitHub office in San Francisco offers a variety of activity based workspaces for employees to choose from that feature elements of biophilic design. Image Source: Office Snapshots - @officestarprodThe GitHub office in San Francisco offers a variety of activity based work spaces for employees to choose from that feature elements of biophilic design. The large skylight and relaxed setting of this space mimics an outdoor patio where employees can work or take a break. Source: Office Snapshots

Instinctive Resources

Organic shapes, patterns, and forms found in nature should also be considered in a holistic approach to biophilic design. This includes the Fibonacci sequence, fractals, and other biomorphic forms naturally occurring in the environment around us. There are many different ways to incorporate this in your office design from chair fabric and shapes, to carpet patterns, to wall and ceiling fixtures. Incorporating locally sourced natural materials, such as plants or wood, to showcase the unique regional attributes of your location is another way to incorporate biophilic design in your office space.

The Canon office in Sydney, Australia features vivid, detailed images of patterns found in nature, incorporating biophilic design, while staying true to their brand and imaging roots. Image Source: Office Snapshots - @officestarprodThe Canon office in Sydney, Australia features vivid, detailed images of patterns found in nature, incorporating biophilic design, while staying true to their brand and imaging roots. Source: Office Snapshots

Human Nature’s Influence

The final attribute influencing biophilic design is basic human instinct. Having sightlines across the office that allow us to take in our environment by incorporating open floor plans and glass partitions, helps us feel safe. Creating recesses where we can quietly focus on our work without interruption, but still take in the world around us, helps us feel protected. While creating elements of mystery and risk through design elements such as an open multi-level floor plan, fuels our sense of adventure.

The Ancestry office in Salt Lake City, UT incorporates multiple biophilic design elements. Image Source: Officelovin - @officestarprodThe Ancestry office in Salt Lake City, UT incorporates multiple biophilic design elements including windows, natural light, organic shapes, and an open multi-level design that appeals to basic human instincts while also encouraging movement and cross floor collaboration throughout the office. Source: Officelovin

Biophilic Design on a Budget

While it’s not always within budget for a complete office remodel project, it can still be possible to incorporate some elements of biophilic design in your existing office space.

If you have ample window space, choose furniture and partitions that do not obstruct this resource, so everyone in the office can benefit from the natural light source.

The mesh back of the SPACE Seating 5500 offers air flow for increased comfort, while the sky blue fabric of the seat mimics the view just beyond the window, two elements of biophilic design. @officestarprodThe mesh back of the SPACE Seating 5500 offers air flow for increased comfort, while the sky blue fabric of the seat mimics the view just beyond the window, two elements of biophilic design.

Add a mix of office friendly plants that don’t require much upkeep such as: spider plants, snake plants, or pothos which bring greenery and fresh air into the workplace.

Emulate the outdoors and inspire staff with a mix of biophilic design elements. @officestarprod - Image Source: Office SnapshotsThis German IT company has filled the office with plants and cork board, along with a sun like mural to emulate the outdoors and inspire staff. Source: Office Snapshots

Use a variety of nature inspired artwork, color, and patterns in your work space. Take inspiration from the California Redwoods to the Florida Keys with our vast selection of furniture fabrics and desk finishes.

Take inspiration from the California Redwoods with a selection of rich earthy tones from our Custom Fabric Program. @OfficeStarProdA selection of rich earthy tones from our Custom Fabric Program combined with the rich espresso wood finish from the OSP Furniture Napa collection create a serene look inspired by the California Redwoods in our home state.

Take inspiration from the Florida Keys with our 100% recycled Key Largo fabric in a range of tropical inspired color to brighten up the office. @officestarprodInspired by the Florida Key’s, our Key Largo, 100% recycled polyester fabric, is not only Greenguard certified for low chemical emissions, it also offers stain resistance, in addition to anti-microbial and anti-bacterial protection key for healthcare environments. Protect your immediate environment as well as our planet, while infusing biophilic design elements into your space with this vibrant fabric collection.

Creating an office environment based on biophilic design principles is easier than you think. With a little imagination, along with the points outlined above, you can create a workplace that motivates and inspires your staff while simultaneously improving wellness and well-being, which directly impacts productivity and the bottom line.

Does your office include biophilic design elements? Are you planning to update your office using biophilc design principles? Let us know how your workplace infuses nature into its design.

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