Even in a highly connected, 24/7 culture, most office workers spend more time at their desk or workstation than they do in bed. That was one of the findings of research we undertook last year – it also found that, 40% of UK office workers spend just 15 minutes outdoors each day.
This is particularly troubling when we consider that interacting with nature can have positive impact on our wellbeing – in fact, according to the theory of biophilia, humans have an inherent need to connect with nature and living organisms. The concept has gained traction in the interior design world in recent years, with more designers looking to ‘bring the outside in’ and enliven workspaces.
Adding plants is an easy place to start. An aesthetically pleasing, easy-to-maintain addition to any workplace, a few potted plants can go some way to helping reduce stress and anxiety and in some cases, purify the air. However, biophilic design trends don’t end there. Here, we highlight six emerging trends that look beyond the traditional indoor plant and will help bring natural elements indoors in a way that mimic outdoor environments.
- Sustainably sourced and reclaimed woods
Wood is perhaps the most popular biophilic construction material, used for office features like tables, room dividers, doors and floors. Rather than relying on the practical and widely used medium-density fibreboard (MDF), many office designers are looking to reclaimed wood for a more natural and authentic appearance. The fact that it’s recycled is also important from a sustainability perspective.
- Eye to the sky
Ceilings are having their moment in the design spotlight, from hanging plants and skylights, to statement ceiling designs. Exposed wooden ceiling joists are increasingly popular and have biophilic properties – they are also the perfect place for a hanging basket, allowing plants with long leaves to dangle freely. Skylights are another option to consider, which allow natural light to flood in more freely, even in compact spaces.
- Green integration
Increasingly, organisations are expanding the scope of plant-based design features to include living walls and moss walls, which help transform indoor or urban spaces into something natural and beautiful, even with limited floor or wall space. It goes without saying that green walls boast the same benefits as plants in terms of helping to reduce indoor air pollution, increase oxygen levels and foster calming environments, providing wellbeing benefits for employees as well as a positive impression for guests or visitors.
- Biodynamic lighting
This next evolution of commercial lighting involves introducing lighting systems that mirror natural sunlight conditions. During winter months, or in offices with reduced access to natural light, this lighting innovation can help to regulate the human body’s natural circadian rhythm, leading to improved sleep and mood regulation, regardless of your proximity to a window.
- Divide and prosper
Traditional dividers have been used for years to create cubicles or private spaces in rooms, but designers are now starting to use more natural materials to achieve a similar function. Green wall dividers are a new space-enhancing element, providing resolution to many challenges that face open office environments. They’re agile and adaptable for dynamic work spaces, while incorporating a biophilic component cost effectively.
- Flooring and restoring
Carpet and flooring designers are beginning to incorporate the unique elements of biophilic design, such as natural stone, wood and forest floors into flooring designs, with the goal of creating natural textures that have similar qualities to being outside.
Alongside incorporating plants in an office environment, to truly achieve biophilic benefits, office designers should think about arranging them in a way that reflects how they are seen in the natural environment. Consider positioning plants of varying heights and textures in a more sporadic fashion, to mirror the random way that they tend to grow in nature.
As the theory of biophilia continues to gain momentum, we can expect to see elements of biophilic design become the norm for the modern office, rather than a curiosity implemented by only the most forward-thinking office designers.
Prettpal Somel is the UK marketing executive for Ambius, a workplace plant design firm
The benefits of connecting with nature are increasingly becoming a central part of office design