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Increasing Employee Wellbeing Through Biophilic Design

Office Space in Town's Mayfair Building 
22 October 2020

Biophilic design can help foster a culture of creativity, improve clarity of thought, reduce stress and therefore enhance overall wellbeing – whilst we continue to work through the pandemic, these qualities are more important than ever. So naturally, it’s predicted that biophilic principles will become a post-pandemic design priority. 


“Convincing staff that it’s safe to return to the office is one of the biggest challenges employers now face – refreshing the workplace provides the clearest signal that their welfare is a top priority,” says Lisa J Piley, Dulux Trade Commercial Colour Consultant.

If you’re considering the most effective ways to increase employee confidence in returning to the office, then wellbeing features should be high on the agenda – that’s where a biophilic approach is crucial. Be it a major fit-out of the entire space or some small refreshes in specific areas, there are elements of biophilic design your building can benefit from. 

But what exactly is biophilic design and how can you incorporate its benefits into your building? Here are some insights from industry professionals on using biophilic principles in your workspace.



Getting Started 


Whilst plants are a central focus of the principle, it’s important to remember that effective biophilic design is about more than just adding some foliage. A biophilic approach seeks to connect building occupants more closely to nature. To achieve this, buildings should incorporate elements like natural lighting, ventilation and landscape features. This creates a more comforting and healthier built environment for people. 

“The role of the outside world in interiors will increase, with the adoption of more elements of biophilic design. At its core is the principle that humans are innately attracted to nature, natural materials and colours.”

– Lisa J Piley

Dulux Trade Commercial Colour Consultant


Niki Fuchs, Managing Director at Office Space in Town, states: “At Office Space in Town, we recognise that thoughtful office design is directly related to productivity and employee wellbeing. As a core part of delivering this across our portfolio of offices, we have increasingly introduced natural design, green spaces and plant-life for the benefit of our staff and tenants. With many of our offices based in the concrete jungle of central London, we wanted to make our offices feel like a haven that reduces stress and feeds creativity.  

Our most recently opened office, OSiT Blackfriars, known as our 'home of happiness', incorporates these natural designs, recognising that feeling connected to nature can help people feel healthier and happier. As we continue to navigate the current climate, workspaces that embrace biophilic design are becoming increasingly important and, in part has helped our clients feel safe and inspired to return to their offices.”

“As we continue to navigate the current climate, workspaces that embrace biophilic design are becoming increasingly important and, in part has helped our clients feel safe and inspired to return to their offices.”

– Niki Fuchs

Managing Director at Office Space in Town



Pictured: Safari meeting room at Office Space in Town's Blackfriars building


Plant-Powered Positivity


Lisa J Piley, Dulux Trade Commercial Colour Consultant predicts, “The role of the outside world in interiors will increase, with the adoption of more elements of biophilic design. At its core is the principle that humans are innately attracted to nature, natural materials and colours. In simple terms, that will mean more plants becoming a feature of office life.”

Plants can not only decrease pollutants in the air, they can increase productivity and positivity – they are a core feature of a biophilic workplace and you’ll see that they crop up again across many of the following sections.


Socially Distanced but Closer to Nature


Whilst we continue to socially distance, we can use this as an opportunity to increase our connection with nature. There are many ways that plants can be used creatively to separate work areas within an office space and support social distancing – employees are likely to enjoy having a ficus as neighbour far more than a plastic screen.

Many social-distancing solutions for the office are now incorporating biophilic design principles, like these living social-distancing screens.


“Live divider screens are essentially a free standing living wall that can easily be moved to screen off or designate areas within an office. The benefit being that they are filled with plants, and as well as increasing positivity and wellbeing, studies also show that plants in a workplace can also reduce stress levels and lower the risk of headaches. With the live divider screens they also don't feel like such a 'covid safety' measure because they are so much more attractive than a perspex screen.”

– Bridget Donbavand

Director, Arti Green


Pictured: A live divider screen from Arti Green


Natural Light


Niki Fuchs, Managing Director at Office Space in Town is an expert in getting the best out of your work environment. She explained the vital part that natural light plays in this: “Spaces that introduce natural light, as well as outdoor areas, are likely to be viewed by employers as an important investment into workers’ wellbeing after COVID-19. Other options include specialised lighting that mimics natural light, while digital capabilities such as smart windows and sensor technology can help manage lighting and ventilation.”

Michal Cohen-Sagi, CEO at 58 Wellbeing expanded on this, highlighting the benefits of natural lighting design has brought to her team and clients: “Working in biophilic design should take in consideration of natural light. At 58 Wellbeing centre, all of our therapy rooms have high ceilings and large windows, the reception and waiting area are spacious and have lots of natural light. This helps team wellbeing and supports the client's journey.”

“It brings positivity and open communication that, especially now with COVID social distancing, enhance the ability to feel nurtured and supported in a safe and natural environment,” she added.

Receptionist at 58 Wellbeing, Georgia Berry echoed this sentiment, stating: “When working in a face-to-face role, it's easy to take on peoples' energy unconsciously. However I have come to realise that when working in an environment that incorporates biophilic design it has the opposite effect and people automatically feel less stress, calmed and at ease, which is such a beautiful thing and overall creates a peaceful and pleasant environment to be part of.”


Indoor Air Quality 


Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a key component for healthy living and forms a central part of wellbeing certification programs such as WELL Building Standard and Fitwel Standard. BESA has also recently appealed for greater attention to be placed on IAQ.

But, unfortunately, although bringing the outside in is the case with much of the biophilic approach, improving IAQ isn’t as simple as opening your windows – that would increase the amount of polluted air entering the building, particularly in urban areas.

“There is a big difference between outside air and ‘fresh’ air,” says Nathan Wood, chair of BESA’s Health & Wellbeing in Buildings group. “Bringing in outside air may create other risks to health if it is full of pollutants.” 

It’s a great idea to include plenty of air-purifying plants, such as ivy, peace lilies, Boston ferns and bamboo palms – around six-eight is recommended per regular user in each room. 

These should ideally be supplemented with a mechanical air purifier: “Outside air needs to be filtered and air purification technologies could be used in certain circumstances. The latter have been proving their worth in healthcare settings,” Mr Wood continues.


Layout & Use of Colour 


Lisa J Piley, Dulux Trade Commercial Colour Consultant states: “In order to further reinforce biophilic principles, desks will face a different direction – looking out onto windows. It will also serve to remind many of the benefits of working in the garden during lockdown. At the same time, clever colour use can provide the illusion of walls melting away and beckoning the outside in, fostering a greater sense of wellbeing for users of a space.”

Green is not the only choice for biophilic colour schemes. It’s often forgotten that blue is actually the most common colour we see in nature down to the immense expanses of sky and sea. The other colours that dominate our natural landscape are earthy tones such as stone and sand. Explore a range of green, blue, grey and brown tones and consider using different colours and shades to define different use areas. It’s important to remember that people have been increasingly bombarded with warning colours of red and yellow in recent months – these are not akin with harmonious living so try keep these to minimum to reflect a more optimistic vision. 


Main Image: Office Space in Town's Mayfair Building 

Article written by Daisy Miceli | Published 22 October 2020


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