Next steps for biophilia: Follow the patterns and rhythms of nature

Biophilia

The positive impact of natural elements in the workplace has been well-documented. Reduced stress, reduced blood pressure and lower heart rates, coupled with increased productivity, creativity and self-reported wellbeing are all top of the list benefits of introducing biophilia into the workplace.

If you’ve employed the simple steps outlined in our previous article, ‘Biophilia as a sensory experience: 6 simple ways to introduce biophilia into your workplace’, and would like to take your ideas further, or if you’re redesigning your office and want to incorporate some additional elements, then read on.

Introduce natural patterns into your interior design

Choose natural patterns for your interior design with naturally occurring shapes and schemes. These could be as obvious as botanical printed wallpapers, through to more abstract patterns within your interiors, avoiding straight lines and instead opting for shapes and schemes that occur in nature.

Incorporate colour-schemes found in the natural world such as greens, browns and golds as well as blues and white for a soothing and calming environment.

If possible, introduce a water feature into your office. The sound of a gently bubbling stream immediately evokes a feeling of calm and peace and can have a positive effect on stress levels, while also enhancing concentration.

Follow the rhythm of the day

The impact of daylight (or often the lack of it) is well-documented, with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD clinically proven to affect a significant proportion of people, causing stress, anxiety and depression.

But it’s not only a lack of daylight that affects us. As physiological beings, we are all affected by the circadian rhythm and our natural state is to be alert during the daylight hours, and gradually become sleepy as the light fades and the evening draws in.

Throughout the day, the wavelength of natural daylight changes. We can often see this as a change in the colour of the light, from a clear, blue light in the morning, easing to a soft, golden light in the afternoon and evening, (the photographer’s ‘golden hour’). This natural change of light aids our sleep, helping us to wake up in the morning and feel sleepy in the evening.

Office workers deprived of natural light will begin to lose this important connection with nature, which coupled with caffeinated drinks can quickly have an adverse impact on our sleep at night and our alertness and ability to carry out our work effectively during the day.

The ideal way to avoid this is to ensure that employees have access to plenty of natural light throughout the day. However, this is often not possible or practical. Specialist, colour-changing lighting, set on a timer to emulate the natural changes in light during the day will help to maximise performance and wellbeing at work.

Move with the seasons

As with the daily changes in light, we are also naturally tuned into the changes in the seasons throughout the year. One essential element of biophilia is connecting with the natural seasons so we can see the changing colours, feel the changes in temperature and smell and touch the changes in the air as we move through the year.

The best way to enable workers to see and experience the seasons is to provide some access to outdoor spaces. This could be through courtyards or roof gardens planted with native plants that will follow the seasons.

If you’re located in the country, or have easy access to parks or public gardens, simply encourage employees to take a walk outside, to literally ‘soak up the season.’ This needn’t be at lunchtime either. Walking meetings provide an ideal opportunity on so many levels, to get outside, get some fresh air and exercise and can help to spark ideas and creativity, simply by being in a different space.

Consider your space

Another important element of biophilic design is the sense of space. In biophilic terms, this is defined by prospects and refuges.

Prospects are spaces that provide a view, perhaps enabling you to see across an atrium, an open plan office, or to look across a space from a balcony or mezzanine. It is important for humans that we have access to views – how often do we traipse up a hill or take a long detour in the car, simply to breathe in the view?

Refuges provide just that, a sense of refuge. Again, essential for human health, we need spaces where we feel safe, secure and cossetted. A refuge is not usually entirely enclosed, but still provides a view of the surrounding area. In nature, this may be sitting with our back to a large tree. In an office, refuges could be provided by cosy chill-out spaces, booth seating or spaces separated from larger open-plan rooms by screening furniture.

Further reading

The scope of this article can only touch upon some of the elements to consider when introducing biophilia to your workspace. But if this has piqued your interest and you’d like to find out more, take a look at this comprehensive report and read up on the WELL Building Standard.

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Jayne Cox

I am a wellbeing consultant for Fusion Spaces, which works alongside my private practice of Life Coaching and Stress Management Consultations. I’m passionate about helping people to thrive at work.

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