There's something rather remarkable about the way that nature has the ability to make you feel, think and act differently. That moment you first see the sea, smell freshly cut grass or feel adrenaline when you’re hiking; biophilia is at the core of being human.  

Biophilia is the innate desire for humans to be in touch with nature through our surroundings. This is represented in the built environment through the use of natural finishes, indoor plants and references to nature or its symmetry; all of which create a closer interaction with nature.

In the modern workplace, the token office plant has been a mainstay for decades but now biophilia is becoming an important consideration for any office design centred on staff wellbeing. So what planted the seed for this popular trend?

Breakout area with green furniture
AstraZeneca's office in Cambridge

Enhanced natural lighting

Exposure to natural light benefits employees both physically and mentally, however it’s not always possible to provide everyone with a view. Previously, executive offices would enjoy the best locations in a building, yet office design trends are seeing more businesses putting communal spaces in these premium positions so that everyone can benefit. This was a central element in AstraZeneca’s recent fit out in Cambridge, where floor-to-ceiling glass panels were used to flood the communal staff areas in light. The feeling of biophilia was enhanced by natural wooden furnishings that are complemented with soft green fabrics. Combined with suspended wooden cut-out frames, this essentially mimics the surrounding outdoor woodlands in a modern office interior.

Meeting rooms with lavender wallpaper
Mills & Reeves biophilic meeting rooms

It boosts workplace wellbeing

There are subtle physical responses that the natural world brings out in our bodies. Increasing the level of natural light increases the level of melatonin in the body, while working next to natural plants will reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the air, allowing workers to feel more alert throughout the day. It’s been proven that the presence of nature can boost positive feelings, while reducing negative ones – helping to increase overall productivity. Being closer to the natural environment can even speed up healing and help reduce absenteeism due to sickness!

Biophilia can be implemented in your office design by selecting natural materials and finishes over synthetic ones. In the UK, wood and stone are popular finishes to use in fit outs and have been linked with promoting staff wellbeing. In a recent project for Mills & Reeves, floor-to-ceiling landscape prints were used in meeting rooms to brighten the atmosphere and create a closer connection with nature. These features were enhanced through the use of natural materials and wooden finishes.

Cafeteria surrounded by plants
GVA's breakout area

It keeps your staff engaged

Biophilic design plays a big part in promoting staff engagement. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to install a living wall right away, even a humble pot plant can begin to boost morale and focus! In GVA's fit out in Grimley, their breakout area has been surrounded by circular rows of plants at varying heights. This both affords an extra bit of privacy, plus the circular pattern makes it easier for staff to engage with one another. Plants can even act as a unifying element in office culture – for example, by introducing an 'adopt a plant' scheme you can raise money for charity as well.

Biophilia in your office design

From living walls to pot plants and increased natural lighting, there are endless (and often easy) ways that you can incorporate biophilia into your new office design. It all just comes down to your budget, choice of materials, and the feeling you want to evoke in your employees.