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With work-related stress and anxiety at all-time highs, integrating natural elements into office spaces is becoming increasingly popular. So-called “biophilic design” has been found to not only boost moods but also cognitive performance in the workplace. This article explores how biophilic features like indoor plants, natural lighting, and exposure to nature can help reduce employee stress while improving their ability to focus.
Negative Impacts of Stress at Work
While some stress can help motivate people, excessive stress takes a significant toll on workers’ wellbeing and productivity. Chronic workplace stress is associated with:
- Higher absenteeism and staff turnover rates as people take sick leave or quit their jobs due to burnout
- Increased mental health issues including anxiety and depression
- Lower creativity levels and problems with attention, memory, and vital cognitive skills
- Poorer job performance and higher error rates
- Damaged workplace relationships and communication issues
- Elevated risks of physical illnesses like heart disease and obesity
Clearly, the negative impacts of unchecked work stress are significant for both employees and organisations. With human resources being the most valuable asset of any business, maintaining a happy and psychologically healthy workforce is a core priority.
The Science Behind Biophilia
Biophilia describes humans’ innate attraction to nature. Evolutionary psychologists argue that because we evolved surrounded by verdant forests, fields, and lakes, we feel most relaxed and “at home” in green natural settings. Studies have found that even brief glimpses of nature elicit positive physiological changes and activate parts of the brain that govern empathy, emotional stability, and mood.
Exposing employees to indoor plants, sunshine, natural sounds and organic shapes, thus taps into biophilia to create an environment that inherently feels restorative. Let’s look at how specific elements of biophilic office design from ninfastudio.com reduce stress while boosting workers’ ability to focus and concentrate.
Greenery for Calm and Focus
Living indoor plants have been found to measurably lower stress hormones like cortisol while increasing feelings of relaxation and mental vitality. Researchers propose this is because caring for another living thing meets our social-emotional needs while symbolising growth and possibility. Having desk plants to nurture can thus boost moods while also clearing the mind for focused work.
Natural Light for Energy and Alertness
Sunlight exposure synchronises our circadian rhythms, boosting daytime alertness. Studies consistently show employees working near windows experience better general health while performing office tasks more accurately and quicker. Natural light also inhibits the release of melatonin that makes us drowsy. Ensuring workstations receive ample sunshine can thus energise employees while enabling clearer thinking.
Nature Exposure for Restored Attention
Brief glimpses of nature scenes prompt the mind to rest and replenish its ability to focus consciously. So, taking a lunch break outdoors in a park or having a picture of a forest landscape on your computer can help rejuvenate concentration capacities. It explains why even artificial nature exposure boosts accuracy on proofreading tasks requiring high visual attention.
Rather than being an airy-fairy fad, biophilic design stands on solid empirical evidence. Introducing plants, natural light, water and organic shapes taps our innate biophilia to create workspaces that inherently promote lower stress alongside greater energy and sharper focus. With such clear benefits, incorporating biophilic elements into offices is a research-backed way to sustain employee wellbeing, satisfaction and optimal functioning.