Human Spaces

Spaces designed with the human in mind

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Human Spaces Report

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The research findings presented here highlight the dramatic influence of various natural elements on three employee outcomes: well-being, productivity and creativity. In more detail, our findings have uncovered some of the unique relationships between elements of biophilic design and employee outcomes in the workplace and also identified many crosscountry differences in these relationships.

Further to these findings, it is natural to consider how these benefits emerge exactly. Although it would be useful to understand how the visual presence of natural elements indoors can have a positive effect on well-being and health, one should be open to the possibility that the natural environment influences subconscious parts of the brain in ways that cannot easily be described. Objects within the field of vision may in fact exert an influence even if the conscious brain does not recognise their existence. The classical example is the response evoked by a twig on the ground; if it remotely resembles a snake the feeling of fear is initiated prior to any visual inspection of the twig. In a similar way, natural elements may impact on brain processes through unconscious mechanisms even when they are not the object of focus. Therefore, the absence of such natural elements may suggest an unnatural, and thus potentially unsafe, environment10. This is interesting in light of the current research findings in which 77% of people said that the design of a company’s office would not affect their decision to work there. In conclusion, it would suggest that the positive influence of natural elements within the workplace may well be subconscious. To put it simply, office workers may not consciously feel that design affects their workplace choice, but actually it does. What we are able to confirm following this research is that nature contact in the workplace is certainly linked to employee outcomes and this is true across a number of countries. It is therefore important for organisations, designers and researchers to be aware of these connections and act accordingly. We know that people are being increasingly isolated from nature but the benefits of nature contact are clear, not only in the workplace but in any environment within which an individual spends time. We have confirmed this here through both the amalgamation of existing research in this area and also through contributing our own unique research findings that have investigated these relationships in the real working world.

It is crucial for employers to pay attention to the influences of nature on the individual not only to maintain positive levels of psychological well-being in the workforce but to also ensure that EMEA office workers are not disengaged and unproductive. It is equally important to keep having this discussion about the impact of the work environment on the individual. We cannot do this by looking purely at the existing literature, we need to take inspiration from the world’s leading organisations and employers who are spearheading this movement in office design. This report hopes to contribute to the discussion surrounding biophilic design in the workplace through bringing unique research and insight into this area and help employers, architects, designers and builders create work environments that make employees happy, healthy and productive.

This report has begun the conversation around the importance of biophilic design in EMEA workplaces. There are a series of key considerations and takeaway points for designers, architects, employers and business suppliers to consider when creating effective and efficient workspaces that attract the best and most productive talent.

1. MEASUREABLE IMPACT – Biophilic design in the workplace has a clear, measurable impact on employee outcomes including productivity, well-being and creativity

2. THE POWER OF PERCEPTION – Employees state office design would not consciously affect their decision to work for a company but their subconscious perceptions and impression of the business responds differently – is this something for employers to address?

3. NO CONTACT WITH NATURE IN THE WORKPLACE – Given the positive impact of biophilic design on productivity, creativity and wellbeing, surprisingly large numbers of employees reported having little or no contact with nature in their workplace

4. EUROPEANS DESIRE NATURE INSPIRED DESIGN INSIDE – Bringing nature indoors can have numerous benefits for organisations in terms of employee outcomes. We found a 13% increase in well-being levels and an 8% increase in productivity for those working in offices that incorporate elements of biophilic design

5. NATURE MOTIVATES YOUR WORKFORCE – When people enter a workplace that incorporates nature, they are more likely to feel happy and motivated for the day ahead

6. PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTRACTS ARE AFFECTED BY THE WORK ENVIRONMENT – The work environment is also a key part of the psychological contract between employer and employee. Employees who feel their expectations have not been met may feel undervalued and disengaged

7. NATURE INSPIRES INDUSTRY LEADING WORKPLACES – Don’t be left behind. The agenda for biophilic design in the workplace is developing quickly in the field, with a number of leading organisations providing employees with nature inspired environments

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