Reasons to Bring the Outdoors into Your Office Space

Do you want to create a healthy, welcoming environment for your employees when they’re working in the office? Consider incorporating biophilic design principles into your space.

We know you’ve heard this countless times over the past few years — where and how employees work is changing. Whether your employees are back in the office daily or your organization has shifted to an in-office/remote hybrid, there’s a question you should be asking yourself: what kind of environment do you want to create for your employees when they do show up to the office? If you want to create a space that helps your employees feel more focused, more productive, less stressed, and healthier overall, you should think about incorporating biophilic design principles into your office. 

Although the concepts of biophilic design go back to ancient times, it’s seen a resurgence in recent years – and research indicates that it’s here to stay.

"Because humans today spend 90% of our time indoors ... it’s necessary to bring the outdoors in and create indoor environments that reference nature in both obvious and subtle ways."

- Katharine Schwab, Fast Company

Thinking Beyond Greenery

What exactly is biophilic design? At the most basic level, biophilic design is a concept used in building and interior design to connect man-made spaces more directly to the natural environment. Why? Countless studies have shown that being closer to nature, from houseplants to natural light, is beneficial for the health of both individuals and urban environments as a whole. A 2019 study even found that “when children grow up surrounded by green space, they have 55% less risk of developing a wide range of mental health problems later in life.” 

Because we don’t all live in a climate that allows for outdoor offices spaces, according to Fast Company, “it’s necessary to bring the outdoors in and create indoor environments that reference nature in both obvious and subtle ways.”

The first thing that comes to mind when considering biophilic design might be incorporating plants and greenery into your office space. Though plants can be an easy way to enhance a space, that’s just the basics. Fast Company states that “biophilic design is more than just adding plants to indoor spaces. It’s an ethos that poses interior design not merely as an aesthetic or functional discipline, but as a way to improve people’s mental and physical well-being.” 

Stephen Kellert, a pioneer of biophilic design, created a framework for the principles of biophilic design that are used today, including the concepts of direct nature and indirect nature.

The concept of “direct nature” is likely the most obvious when it comes to biophilic design – it refers to actual contact with environmental features in man-made spaces: think access to natural light and air, incorporating plants, water features, etc. Direct nature is one of the most accessible principles of biophilic design when you’re looking to make upgrades to your current space, and features like office plants and warm desk lighting can be cost-effective solutions. Some organizations choose to go all-in on the direct nature concept, like this co-working space in Portugal that’s home to over 2,000 plants.

"Everything we do [in our workspace] is inspired by nature and biophilia."

- Rohan Silva, co-founder, Second Home co-working space, Portugal

Less obvious to those who aren’t experts, the concept of “indirect nature” in biophilic design refers to incorporating images or representations of nature into a space, including everything from pictures and artwork, to natural materials like wood furnishings and woolen fabrics, or even features inspired by shapes that appear in nature. Ceiling features in natural wave shapesguest seating with wood elementsrugs with natural textures and materials — when it comes to incorporating indirect nature, the options are versatile and nearly limitless. Indirect nature played a key design role when Adobe renovated their San Jose campus, with large wall murals of outdoor scenes, earth tones dominating the color palette, and use of wood and other natural materials throughout the space.

Ready to Bring the Outdoors In?

Whether you’re looking to make some updates to your current space or gearing up for a complete remodel, we can help you find ways to incorporate biophilic design concepts into your plans with our extensive portfolio of products and manufacturers. Reach out today and let’s talk about bringing the outdoors into your office space.

The Economics of Biophilic Design

Calling all architects, interior designers, and A&D professionals! BII is teaming up with Biome Idaho for an upcoming CEU. Learn more about the May 11 event and register today.

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