There is now growing evidence that our office environment can have a direct impact on our mental health. It’s no surprise that your job can leave you stressed, but when the office around you acts as a catalyst for such ill health, the longer-term effects could be dangerous.

Research conducted by Professor Sir Cary Cooper, commissioned by Interface, has linked the effects of poorly designed workspaces to levels of employee wellbeing around the world. Surveying 7,600 people from 16 different countries, the study found that office workers show an affinity for biophilic design. However, many workplaces disregard employee needs and cut us off from the natural world, so what can be done to improve office design?

What is biophilic design and why is it important?

Biophilic design is when we create a room to reflect elements of nature. It could be the use of green wallpaper, the use of natural light from large windows or even live office plants. From the research, we can determine that an office space that seems disconnected from the outside world could have a negative impact on employees.

When asked, the survey participants noted that natural light was the most important aspect of an office space, yet a huge 47% of us have no natural light in the office at all. Whilst many of us joke about ‘needing’ a holiday and the chance to bask in the sun, the health benefits of natural sunlight have been proven countless times.

Office workers that have no access to natural light risk the chance of developing SAD, a vitamin D deficiency that many of us encounter in winter when sunlight is at a premium. The effects of this condition are synonymous with depression and a report last year estimated that around one million working hours are lost each year due to this health issue. A workplace that lacks this vital part of biophilic design not only risks its employees’ health, but also its commercial output.image

The second most important workplace design element, according to the survey respondents, was live indoor plants. You’d be forgiven for underestimating the effects that one small plant can have, but incorporating this touch of nature into your office could dramatically improve the overall mood in the workplace.

The University of Exeter discovered that adding plants to an office could improve productivity by 15%. Their study examined plants in a live working environment and the results matched those that have been previously conducted in a controlled lab. The first-of-its-kind study found that workers exposed to the new office foliage reported an increase in workplace satisfaction, self-reported concentration levels and perceived air quality.

Is your office environment putting off new recruits?

Professor Sir Cary Cooper highlights the benefits of biophilic design in the workplace: “Looking at a snapshot of global working environments, up to one in five people have no natural elements within their workspace, and alarmingly nearly 50% of workers have no natural light. Yet a third of us say that workplace design would affect our decision to join a company.”

We’ve previously discussed how our environment affects the health of employees, and it goes without saying that making changes to this would improve their outlook and employee turnover in tandem. However, you should look towards your potential recruits too, as they will also be judging the workplace to see if it meets their expected

If you want to attract the best talent to your company, you should be actively working towards creating an inspiring and productive environment. Whilst you may think that the competitive job market will allow you to cherry pick the best candidates, recent graduates are now setting their own lofty benchmarks for workplace expectations.

Accepting the fact that they may not reach their desired salary straight away, graduates are now more focused on finding a job with great workplace benefits and the design of the office is high on their agenda.

If you have a bustling office with lush greenery and a team that’s already reaping the benefits, your office will instantly look like a more exciting place to work for new recruits. As such, the benefits of biophilic design in the office could not only save you money when it comes to employee health, but it could also ensure you’re attracting the right people to build a reliable and hard working team.

Does your office leave you uninspired?

If you’re reading this article and looking around your office with disappointment, there are plenty of ways to apply biophilic interior design to your office.

Go green – In our guide to office design, we previously discussed the use of green shades in office interior design. The psychological impact of green wallpaper gives employees a boost in creativity and focus, so why not adorn your office in a luscious green pigment?

Invite Mother Nature indoors – Adding office foliage to desks and meeting spaces could offer multiple benefits, as earlier stated. You could even go one step further and create a beautiful forest wallpaper mural to give your office an enchanting sense of wonder that will instantly boost creativity.

If you work in a creative industry, you’ll also want to set yourself apart from the competition with incredible office design. If a client was to see your office in its current state, what would they think? A stunning green wall mural would not only impress your employees, but it would certainly impress clients too!

Shine a light on staff – Of course this is a little trickier for employers to do if the office space they rent does not offer much natural light. Alas, you have to work with what you’ve got. Using glass furniture and mirrors can help to maximise what little natural light you do have.

Whilst your workplace may not have huge windows that let the light flood in, you can create a space that maximises the low lighting that is available. Think about the way you’ve arranged the desks in your office, could they be closer to the windows? You also may want to think about the colour of your office furnishings. Black may look professional, but it doesn’t exactly create a colourful and motivational environment. White desks or light wooden workspaces could dramatically lift the mood in your office by creating the illusion of a lighter environment.

If you feel inspired to add a sprinkle of nature to your workplace, you might want to check out Create a Wall’s extensive collection of custom landscape wall mural designs. It’s easier than you think to bring the outside in!