Bringing the outdoors into your office

furniture & interiors

An exciting development to take hold of the interior design community, specifically in office spaces and work environments, is ‘biophilic design’, but why should modern businesses adopt it into their workplace design? Biophilic design takes the concept of nature and a human’s natural connection to it and applies it to contemporary design and spacial planning …

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An exciting development to take hold of the interior design community, specifically in office spaces and work environments, is ‘biophilic design’, but why should modern businesses adopt it into their workplace design? Biophilic design takes the concept of nature and a human’s natural connection to it and applies it to contemporary design and spacial planning with an office space to create more nature-inspired environments for workers. With recent studies from Human Spaces informing us that 30% of EMEA workers (Europe, Middle East and America) don’t have access to natural sunlight in their workplace, it’s significant for organisations to ascertain whether incorporating biophilic design into their business is worthwhile. In this post, we will discuss three variants of implementing natural design into your office space, and the benefits of these methods.

Visually:

One way to simply involve more natural aspects into your office design is through visual changes and additions. Perhaps the easiest, yet most important, way of doing this is to find ways to make natural and dynamic lighting more accessible. As humans, we follow what’s known as a circadian rhythm which is a 24-hour cycle. This is naturally intertwined with our motivation, productivity and energy throughout the day, and can be modulated by sunlight and temperature. If you’re stuck in a dark office with no natural light, it’s not inconceivable that your circadian rhythm will essentially become jumbled up, leaving you feeling tired and unmotivated during the day. By adding simple changes such as natural light, you can limit these effects and create a boost of energy during the day across your office space. In fact, according to the Human spaces report already mentioned, office workers who work in an environment with natural elements (such as sunlight and greenery) experience a 13% higher level of well-being than those without natural amenities.

So how does a business introduce these types of changes, along with other forms of natural visual design? For most, it should be as easy as having unobstructed windows across the office allowing light to flood in, or installing larger windows or skylights, however this isn’t always possible, especially if you’re renting out office space. For this, you could implement dynamic lighting that shifts in direction and colour to mimic the sun’s natural cycle. Sunlight isn’t the only way to alter your office space to a visually, biophilic design plan, though, as greenery and colour schemes will have similar effects on the psyche. Incorporating colours such as forest greens, browns and tans along with a sky or sea blue can greatly impact the general well-being of your office. This could be introduced simply through minor things like stationery, and other office equipment as a start, and could go as far as repainting the office and laying new carpets to match the design. In a recent refurbishment for Pets at Home, we used some of these visual elements within their design, such as breakout pods with natural tan and green colours to allow for a natural atmosphere.

Texturally:

Another interesting way to invoke feelings of nature into your office environment is through the medium of textures, surfaces and just the general feel of your workspace. Similar to the idea of biophilic design, this variant of bringing the outdoors inside is called ‘biomorphic’ design and focuses on creating work areas that model and feel like natural spaces. Biomorphic designs are supposed to create environments that, although artificial or man made in design, look and feel as if they could be found naturally. According to a UK based study titled ‘The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Office Space’, workers that were exposed to nature at work are 15% more productive than those who weren’t.

There are many ways to easily integrate these kinds of designs into your current space without too much effort or even expense. First, let’s clarify what counts as biomorphic design, as it does correspond with specific materials. Most offices are likely to include equipment or furniture that already falls into this category, such as natural wooden desks, or marble workspaces, as these are both materials that can be found within nature and evoke feelings of being outdoors. For more ideas, you could embrace greenery with plant walls that can be used to partition spaces and decorate and office’s aesthetic whilst also providing a more colourful, unique and natural backdrop to any office space.

Sensory:

A more obscure or unusual approach to creating a work environment that assimilates nature and its many benefits into the day-to-day grind is through sensory approaches to design. So, what does sensory refer to? The kind of changes under this branch of biophilic design aim to affect the way we take in our environment, whether that be through sound, smell or anything that influences our senses in a considerable way. Altering the way, we feel and sense our surroundings in any environment, even man-made ones, isn’t a new concept. Practices such as ‘Feng Shui’ are based around creating spaces following defined principles to boost our innermost feelings of happiness, well-being and even productivity, and nature has a lot to do with this. Certain conditions of an environment can affect us very easily, such as not being able to sleep when there’s loud noises. If you can manipulate not only the sounds you add to an environment, you can have more control over the way your team feels and can create a definitively more fruitful working environment.

There are simple ways you can incorporate these features into your spatial planning, but all make significant changes to your workplace for the better. Simple additions to your space such as water features can make a huge impact, as its proven that the sound of running water can naturally put people at ease and allow them to concentrate as they tune into a more constant, uninterrupted sound. Having these features is undeniably aesthetically pleasing, which can help for the visual aspects of biophilic design. Another way to include some sensory changes to your current design is through your spatial planning and creating a system which makes your space as unpredictable as nature itself is. Create winding paths between paths, offices and meeting rooms to provoke the wild essence of nature. Although a small change, it doesn’t go unnoticed and will create an interesting climate between the teams and even encourage more collaboration. Another method to adopt this abstract style is through varying ceiling heights or natural partitioning between areas using material like cork, bamboo or straw.

Whether you’re looking simply for a fresh, modern layout to shake up the office or considering adopting more natural design additions to impact the well-being of your office, biophilic design styles are a great way to renovate your workspace. For more information, get in touch with our team today and we can discuss how refitting and reinventing your office can help you and your team today!