Natural elements in your work environment improve your mental abilities

A connection between wellbeing and design

By Shalina Dilloe

People sometimes spend more than 40 hours a week at their workplace. Suppose 10% of these hours are not used effectively, this can have major consequences for a company

Biophilic, in short ‘the love for the living’ is something that we find increasingly important. It also gets applied more often into architecture. Biophilic design doesn’t just make sure that we are in contact with nature, but also with our fellow humans. Living in a space which has been furnished by the biophilic method has a lot of benefits for our health .  

A lot of people think that biophilic design is accomplished by painting your walls green and putting plants in your interior, but this is not the case. Biophilic design encourages contact between you and nature by applying it into your surroundings. Multiple researches confirm this theory.

Biophilic design responds to the direct needs of us humans to be in contact with nature. And we’re able to live a healthier and happier life because of this. 

Technology is taking over. People spent about 11 hours a day on an electronic device, and 90% is of it is indoors. These individuals often get exposed to a little to no sunlight at all, while it’s really important. Biophilic design makes sure that this, and other elements are brought into the built environment to improve our well-being.  A research from Terrapin Bright Green concludes that there are 6 wanted aspects by staff members when it comes to their workspace. In this top 6 are: 


Improved and natural  lighting  

Getting enough sunlight into a building plays a big role into the well-being of the people who spend their days working here. Employees who work in an office with artificial light as the primary light source, feel less healthy than employees who have access to natural lighting. That’s why the awning design, orientation and window/wall ratio must all be taken into account in the design to optimize daylight.  

Moss carpet tile from Interface is part of the biophilic Human Connections range

Visual connection with nature   

Some buildings are located near a sea, river or lake, and others in a wooded area or a city park. In result the people who work or live in these buildings have an incredible view on the ocean and others on an overfloat of trees. It has a lot of benefit for our health because it has a soothing effect and reduces our stress.

Collection Felt Plants of WANDSCHAPPEN during The Salone del Mobile Milaan 2015 by Driessens & van den Baar

Enrich the interior with art  

Art provides atmosphere and inspiration, and thus contributes greatly to the perception of a space. It provides a resting point, a moment of admiration and shows new perspectives.

The presence of water  

Sound is an important contextual factor that deserves attention in this subject. Too much noise can make people feel stressed. On the other hand can too much silence make us unsafe.  

Rippling water, also known as ‘white noise’ is a great way to neutralize office noises. This relaxing noise has been examined and tested in detail for the last couple years. Results show that it reduces the influence of background noises in an open office space. The presence of water has a positive effect on us. Whether you can hear, see or touch it. It gives us a feeling of calmness.

Salesforce, San Francisco, video wand.

Your own green oasis  

Unfortunately, not everyone has a view of the sea, but there is a solution for that. Plants already make a big difference in the workplace. They promote the well-being of employees by 47%. All that greenery reduces stress. This means you are already 10 to 15% more productive in a day. In addition, plants also purify the air, and are handy humidifiers.  

Salvaged workspace  

It is very important that you can work in a quiet, tidy workspace. It is essential that natural materials and calming colors are used. This connects us to a space, because it represents nature. This is possible with, for example, natural paint colors, picturesque murals, carpet types, wooden frames and much more. 

The designers of Obscura speak in this video. Salesforce approached Obscura with the ability to create imaginative media for the 107-inch-long LED video wall in the lobby of their flagship San Francisco. The floors were supplied by Interface. Interface.

Not just a beautiful space  

It is enormously important to have a nice workplace, where people can also get inspiration anproductivity. Organizing a space in the biophilic way is not only done to make it look good. On the contrary. It involves our inner attraction to nature. Spaces in harmony with nature ensure that your productivity and creativity increase by 10 – 15%. Your thoughts are clearer and your body more energetic. 

As an organization you give a contribution to nature.In the increasingly crowded world, more and more space is being made for the city.This makes nature increasingly difficult to find. 

De Bosco Verticalein Milan by Boeri Studio i.s.m. agronomist Laura Gatti.  The structure was inspired by the 14th century Torre Guinigi in Lucca.

The Living Surface, installation by Lizan Freijsen. Photo by Lotte van Stekelenburg

Remarkable percentages   

We live in an era where more and more people are expressing their mental state.It appears that around 76% of people in the workplace suffer from stress-related health problems.As a result, many employees are struggling with low productivity, negative mood and high absenteeism.Physical and mental health is not just nice to have, but a basic condition for being able to function well in, for example, work or school.

In the United States, absenteeism in companies appears to be more than 62 hours per employee per year.The costs are up to more than 2000 dollars per employee.Astudy by the University of Oregon found that 10% of sickness absence is due to workplaces that have no direct or indirect relationship with nature. 

For example, a study by acommercial company in floors called ‘Interface’ shows that employees who look out at greenery take far less sick leave than employees without.A view of living greenery helps with a faster recovery from fatigue.  

Interface is a strong proponent ofbiophilicdesign.More than 50 studies from around the world, such as the HumanSpacesstudy, which Interface has had carried out in collaboration with professor of psychology Cary Cooper, show that nature or environments that mimic nature have a positive effect on our health and well-being.

Interface also explores this power ofbiophilicdesign in its collections, which mimic natural surfaces, colors and textures. Take ING’s head office, also known as ‘the Sandcastle‘ in Amsterdam.With a lot of daylight, organic architecture, water, greenery and art, absenteeism fell by 15%.This is a remarkably pleasant result. 

Collection Felt Plants of WANDSCHAPPEN during The Salone del Mobile Milaan 2015 by Driessens & van den Baar

Creative incentives

Viewing art is not only a pleasant activity, art is good for your health.Art in the workplace has a stimulating influence.These theories are confirmed from several different studies. 

Take the research of psychologistCraigKnight as example, which shows that art increases your productivity and well-being and reduces your stress. 

During this research, participants had to work in four different types of workspaces. 

• Simple

Only what is needed to perform tasks. 

• Enriched 

Art and plants that were already placed in space. 

• Authorized 

Articipants could choose where they wanted to put art and plants. 

• Powerless

Participants were able to arrange the art and plants themselves – but the experimenter then reversed these personal accents and returned to the enriched layout


The team that worked in an enriched office did this 15% faster than the people in a simple office. These enriched people also had far fewer health problems. Art is a way to retain staff and the more they work in an enriched environment, the more they realize that they are also a part of a part of this creative process.

eople spend the majority of their lives at work, and this can become a routine after a certain moment. Interactive art is the perfect solution for this. It offers a constant sense of fascination and commitment.

Small percentages, major consequences

In addition to the fact that an unpleasant workspace leads to more absenteeism, this can also lead to ‘presenteeism’, or to be less productive, dull and not focused. People sometimes spend more than 40 hours a week at their workplace. Suppose 10% of these hours are not used effectively, this can have major consequences for a company. On an annual basis, these organizations are millions that they miss out on.

In a Call Center in Sacramento, California, the strategic placement of the workplaces proved to lead to a great result. Employees sitting at a large window with a view of greenery handle calls 6 to 7% faster than employees without this view. Placing the window costs the company money, but this was already earned back in less than four months. Productivity increases, and so do profits. An increase of ‘only’ 6% can mean a lot for a company with 1000 employees. It leads to a profit of several million a year.

The biophilic method is not only effective in business. Hospitals, schools, the housing market and the retail sector are also showing positive results.

Patients recover faster

It appears that patients recover faster when they stay in rooms with natural daylight and a view of greenery. They feel better faster and have to stay less long. Fewer lay days means fewer costs for the hospital and health insurers.

Better results in school 

The same applies to schools. In a pleasant environment with lots of daylight and surrounded by greenery, there is much less absenteeism and dropout. These children achieve 7 to 18% better results and learn 20 to 26% faster.

Advantage in stores

People spend more money in shopping centers and surroundings when they are light and green. A survey of 73 stores in California, United States showed that stores that had skylights installed had a sales increase of 40%. Thanks to these skylights, they also saved on energy costs.

Profit on the housing market

Green neighborhoods are worth a lot of money. Within the housing market, people are willing to pay no less than 58% more for a house with a view of the water. In Washington State, park-side homes are worth 5% more. In Cleveland, houses in neighborhoods that were well laid out and many large trees were found to have 7% more rental income and 4 to 5% more in sales. Houses on the lake in Puget Sound are worth 128% more than houses in another neighborhood.

Another advantage of living in a green neighborhood is that there is considerably less crime. In Chicago, buildings with a green environment have 52% fewer offenses and crimes.

In the future

Today we live in a world that is becoming more digital, faster and fully built. We also spend most of our time indoors. That is why it is essential to create workspaces in which we feel at home and can be inspired by nature.

Het World Health Organisation verwacht dat stress gerelateerde ziekten, zoals psychische aandoeningen en hart- en vaatziekten tegen 2020 de grootste oorzaken van ziekte zijn. Wanneer er ook nog is een matige connectie tussen mens en natuur is, ontstaat er nog een grotere kans op het krijgen van deze aandoeningen. Het opnemen van directe of indirecte elementen van de natuur in een gebouwde omgeving verlaagt je stress, bloeddruk en hartslag.

Fortunately, more and more Dutch companies and architects work from the principles of biophilic design. A number of offices have also been set up this way. The Kempensberg building in Groningen is one of these. The building has been used since 2011 by the Education Executive Agency (DUO) and the Tax Authorities. From that time on, absenteeism has fallen by 20%. 

The more natural elements are processed in an office, the healthier the space. That is why it is important that companies focus on this and make use of biophilic design.

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