Biophilia, defined as a human tendency to be closely associated to nature, is rapidly becoming one of the most common talking points in property.
Biophilic design is more than just having plants placed in various spaces in the office; it’s the astute understanding that creating a greener workspace for your employees is a top priority as it provides opportunities to access the outside world, while inside.
During the lockdowns, when our freedom to roam was restricted, it became apparent just how crucial access to the outdoors and the ability to connect with nature was. This was coupled with a realisation that many of us are living in areas that fall woefully short in this measure. Urban areas encroach on the accessibility to natural views, flora and green spaces but it has now become even more apparent that for wellbeing we need to incorporate these elements into the internal design of office buildings.
Many have said that the disconnect with nature and green spaces contributes to stress, anxiety and reduced concentration in the workplace. Stressful work environments, fatigue and anxiety are contributors to poor mental health which ultimately contributes to our overall wellbeing.
Research has shown that creativity and productivity increase with greater access to nature and natural elements. Plant life increases oxygen levels and decreases mental and physical fatigue, all of which are of course beneficial to office workers. This is arguably more important now than ever, as people who are looking to return to their workplace will want tangible benefits from the office environment. Health and wellbeing is a top priority, with the pandemic pushing awareness of hygiene and physical health to the forefront of many people’s minds. The message of ‘caring for the wellbeing of your occupiers’ is key and biophilia can play a central role in the upgrading of space to be more appealing to workers.
Earlier this year, at one of the properties we manage in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, we improved the presence of nature on site within the building’s common areas, which has not only had a positive impact on the aesthetics but also on our occupiers’ emotional wellbeing. The objective of the project was to provide a contemporary and attractive area for staff and visitors to use for meetings. It also helped us improve the aesthetics of the building and we also replaced the reception desk which had a big impact on the space. A huge amount of thought was given to the plants as we wanted to make the most of the natural light from the atrium and to create a bright and green space.
Our site staff regularly receive positive passing comments from those who are using the area as a break space or for informal meetings. The feedback that has been given to our dedicated customer experience manager has also indicated that occupiers are feeling more relaxed within this improved environment.
Actively incorporating access points to nature allows landlords to accelerate their brand and occupier experience. This does not have to mean large scale living walls, although of course it can if there is space and this is the vibe you are going for. The introduction of potted plants, access to balconies or roof terraces and landscaping the communal areas with larger plants can be a start towards improving the experience of your office workers.
About the Author
Alasdair Manning is a surveyor in our Property Management team, where he advises clients on mitigating risk and future proofing assets considering climate change and legislative changes. He has a strong focus on improving the social value performance of the assets we manage to benefit local communities.
To get in touch email, Alasdair.Manning@colliers.com.