What is a biophilic office?


Amazon installed 40,000 plants in its Seattle headquarters in pursuit of biophilic design. Photo: AFP

Next to the pens and Post-it notes neatly arranged on the desk is a pot in which grows a Cissus rhombifolia plant, a grape ivy, and beside it are cuttings of green plants.

Plants can soothe, help combat stress and increase the creativity and productivity of employees. For some years now, nature has been invited into office buildings through a host of plant installations.

These plants are growing all across collective work areas to give them life.This trend has a name: biophilic design. It refers to the integration of natural elements in the design of buildings or interior spaces.

Many big tech companies regard biophilic design as a model for their office setups. When opening its Seattle headquarters, Amazon brought in nearly 40,000 plants, created a treehouse, and built an actual waterfall in a space consisting of three connected glass domes, which it calls The Spheres.

Google followed suit at its new New York City campus, where acres of natural gardens constitute a veritable ecosystem.

Boosting creativity and productivity

There are several aspects that explain why companies are turning to this type of biophilic office design. The beauty that comes from green spaces is soothing and is an asset when it comes to recruiting desirable staff. And as nature has a soothing capacity, it also helps reduce stress and increase creativity and productivity.

Cary Cooper, a researcher and professor specialising in organisational psychology, emphasises that bringing nature into workspaces is a wise investment in employee health and productivity.

His report entitled "Human Spaces" explains in depth how "an environment devoid of nature may create discord, meaning that such environments can have a negative effect on health and wellbeing.

It is noted that this discord is largely due to a lack of greenery and, in particular, a visual absence of plants. This can be improved by incorporating elements of nature into these environments".

Michele Neptune, a member of Google's sustainability team, has a similar viewpoint.

"We're looking to create workplaces that reduce stress, improve cognitive function, enhance creativity – all of these make our employees healthier, happier, and more engaged in their work," she told the Financial Times at the campus opening.

A good way for all kinds of workplaces to add colour and a feeling of wellbeing, as well as to help foster the growth of ideas. – AFP Relaxnews

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