A recent global survey of 7,600 office workers from 16 countries including the U.S., Brazil, U.K and China found that almost 60% of workers had no view to greenery or nature within their built environment*. The majority of employees are literally disconnected from the sights, sounds, smells and other natural stimuli that we have evolved to appreciate as humans for thousands of years.
The dominant trend in traditional office furniture for the past 5 years, has been toward sleeker, lower and more minimalist “benching” configurations. This enables lower partitions and less visual obstructions. But as those partitions came down, so did the natural places to add color, texture and pattern. More often than not, the most common work surface is a white laminate that provides a clean, light and neutral backdrop. The resulting space can be modern and sophisticated, but often it can be cold and impersonal.
At a macro level, natural environments such as the forests, valleys, mountains and coasts are best characterized by their variety and constant change as opposed to similarity and sameness. Even at a micro level, every leaf on a tree is unique in it size, color and vein structure. These subtle changes are one of the reasons why we find natural environments so beautiful. Its the variety that is constantly inspiring and engaging.
It’s no wonder that designers and end-users are incorporating more real and simulated nature within the built environment. The same study referenced above found that in environments where biophilic elements are present, workers felt up to 15% higher perceived wellbeing, 6% more productive and 15% higher creativity.
According to a University of Washington Study on Patient Outcomes*, even simulated nature is better than no nature at all. Whether it is through small planters along workstations to bring in that greenery or Nuform stone or wood storage fronts to add a natural element, both real and simulated nature can have significantly positive impacts on building environments.
Although it may not be practical for every employee to work outside or have views to nature every moment of the day, the least we can do is ensure that their interior environment has the right amount of biophilic elements to improve employee wellbeing, productivity and creativity.