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The Power of Biophilia

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

The return to the office post-COVID has been jarring for many. Now is the time to consider new ways to bring comfort and healing into our homes and the workplace. Biophilia is one of my favorite ways to do this.

Biophilia is centered on our innate connection to nature. Even before the pandemic, workers craved natural light and views of the outdoors, which were rated the number one office perk by the Harvard Business Review. Nature therapy is also known to combat technology fatigue.

But natural space is dwindling. According to the United Nations, by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in urban environments, which will increase their desire for light and nature. This unequivocal need for natural elements goes hand in hand with both mental and physical health. For example, studies on sunlight show that exposure affects overall mood. Hormones such as serotonin are released by the brain when the body is exposed to sunlight. A lack of these hormones is widely believed to cause seasonal depression.

Bringing the Outside In

Science has shown that workplaces that practice the biophilic basics – incorporating natural elements like plants, light, color, and shapes – have measurable benefits for companies and employees alike. But how can you start bringing these concepts into practice?

The International WELL Building Institute has proposed the WELL Building Standard, which considers ten concepts of building performance for optimizing health, satisfaction, wellbeing, and staff productivity:

  • Air

  • Water

  • Nourishment

  • Light

  • Movement

  • Thermal Comfort

  • Sound

  • Materials

  • Mind

  • Community

Companies like Amazon are implementing biophilic design aesthetics to help motivate employees. Even the smallest of design touches can bring elements of nature into the office.

Being in nature or even looking at pictures of nature can improve cognitive function and increase productivity by 15%. while also lowering cortisol and blood pressure. A living green wall made of hanging plants can introduce some natural touches, and a water feature brings the sounds of the outdoors inside. Bringing nature into the built environment using raw materials, fractal patterns, and open spaces with views can also provide refuge from the daily grind.

Doing something as minor as rearranging the current furniture layout can also reap significant benefits. Reorient your furniture to view the outdoors and have your back to your office interior whenever possible. Even if the view isn’t “breathtaking”, it still provides much of the same benefits.

Even those locked in a subterranean bunker can implement some aspects of biophilic design. Shapes like domes, arches, and vaults can provide psychological comfort and add a diverse sensory experience even without windows and waterfalls.

Here are some additional ways that you can bring the outside in:

  • Use glass partitions instead of opaque walls to increase exposure to daylight

  • Use natural ventilation through windows whenever possible

  • Replace fluorescent lighting with softer LED lights

  • Use more landscaping such as trees and bushes near windows

  • Decorate with natural colors such as green, brown and blue

  • Encourage team members to keep potted plants at their workstations

At my company, Aegis Living, we have used biophilia concepts for years to promote wellness and longevity. The value for residents and our team has been profound.

You don’t have to wait for your employer to make subtle changes to your workspace, and there’s always Pinterest to help fuel creativity.

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