A Guide to Biophilic Office Design

Since your employees are spending the majority of their time at work, and probably in an office, it’s critical to create a comfortable work environment that they want to return to each day. One of the ways you can create a work environment your clients and staff will love is by introducing elements of biophilic interior design.

Biophilic office design helps break up the monotony of day-to-day work in the office by re-establishing our connection with nature. It involves redesigning your office space to include natural elements to mimic the feeling of being out in nature. Learn more about biophilic design and how you can incorporate it in your office.

What Is Biophilic Office Design?

Biophilic office design derives from the concept of biophilia, which is the belief that people seek connections with nature and life. Erich Fromm, a German-American psychoanalyst, used the term in 1973 to mean a love of life and all things alive. In 1984, American biologist Edward Wilson proposed that biophilia has a genetic basis.

The same principles of biophilia — a connection to nature — apply to the definition of biophilic design. Biophilic office design focuses on our predisposition to connect with nature by bringing the outdoors in. While it can involve introducing more plants into the workspace, the purpose of biophilic office design is to create a workplace employees enjoy coming to with areas where they can work, collaborate and relax.

Many offices are integrating biophilic design because introducing elements of nature inside can increase employee satisfaction, productivity and creativity. It’s also simple to introduce these elements. You can start with something as easy as adding some potted plants to the office. Adding potted plants will improve the air quality and the look and feel of the office.

The Benefits of Biophilic Office Design

Since biophilic office design focuses on bringing nature inside, your employees gain the same benefits they would if they were out in nature. Imagine that you’re outside breathing in fresh, clean air and enjoying the sunlight flittering across your skin. That image probably brought a smile to your face, just as it’d make your staff happy because being out in nature is natural and refreshing. But biophilic design provides other benefits in addition to increasing your employees’ happiness. Biophilic design benefits include:

  • Increases productivity: Workers surrounded by natural elements are more productive than those that aren’t. Their increased productivity can be due to improved air quality and concentration levels, a greater sense of well-being and more workplace settings. The additional natural lighting can also increase productivity by reducing stress and decreasing headaches and fatigue.
  • Heightens creativity: A more stimulating work environment with artwork, graphics and wall art can boost the creativity of your employees. When you introduce natural light, finishes and colors, it can also create an environment for fostering creativity.
  • Enhances employee well-being: Thanks to all the benefits of biophilic design, it can improve employee well-being. When your staff is healthier and happier, they are more productive and miss work less.
  • Increases concentration: Plants increase oxygen levels, thereby decreasing mental fatigue. Reduced mental fatigue leads to increased engagement and productivity.
  • Improves employee retention rates: Staff retention increases as employee happiness and well-being increase. One of the main concepts of biophilic office design is to provide a place workers are happy to come to so they don’t want to leave. Most companies want higher retention rates so they can save money on recruitment costs and training new employees.
  • Attracts top talent: Your office design affects your company culture — it shows your employees what your company values. When you choose biophilic design, you show that you value your employees’ health, happiness and comfort. It also transforms your office into a dynamic, inviting and green environment that will attract the top talent in your field.

The Basic Principles of Biophilic Office Design

Biophilic design has six basic principles. These biophilic design principles act as individual design elements that work together to create a positive and harmonious workplace. Most biophilic offices incorporate all the features because once you break it down, you only need to focus on designing your office with a natural feel, so earth tones for the furniture, walls or decor, plants, water elements, realistic artwork and decorative stones.

1. Environmental Features

One of the most basic principles of biophilic design is to incorporate environmental features — water, fresh air, sunlight, animals, earth tones, natural materials and plants — in your indoor environment. And the reason why people associate biophilic office design with plants is because decorating with plants is a simple way to bring nature inside.

Incorporating environmental features in office design creates a relaxing, welcoming environment that acts as a retreat from the rushed pace of daily life.

2. Restorative Patterns and Processes

This principle of biophilic design focuses on how our senses — sight, smell, taste, touch and sound — adapt to and flow with changing nature. The world is constantly evolving, but the built environment is static. Biophilic office design incorporates different elements so the environment can change. These elements include colors, textures, outdoor areas, decor and wall art.

3. Light and Space

Natural light is necessary for our health. It regulates your circadian cycle by controlling the release of melatonin, and it plays a role in the function of the nervous and endocrine systems. Longer hours of daylight exposure prolongs the release of melatonin, which decreases end-of-the-day fatigue, headaches and stress. Thus, in biophilic design, you incorporate more natural light or copy the changes of light and shadow throughout the day.

4. Closer Relationship With Nature

The relationship between humans and nature can be mutually beneficial. We can care for nature and enjoy its benefits, which is why biophilic design focuses on the fact that it’s our responsibility to care for the environment. When we do, nature becomes a safe escape from the rigors of daily life.

One way you can encourage a closer relationship with nature is by utilizing outdoor areas. If your company has outdoor spaces like a roof, garden, lawn or balcony, you could set up tables and chairs so your employees can work outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.

5. Natural Features

Because biophilic design seeks to bring the outdoors in, it incorporates natural shapes and forms. Designers use natural materials or fake materials and patterns that replicate natural ones. Stone and wood are popular choices for bi deophilic office sign. A great example of incorporating natural features in design is a Zen garden. It contains stones, wood, water and greenery.

6. Incorporating Different Contexts

Biophilic design considers the spiritual, historical, cultural and ecological contexts. It can incorporate these elements with wall decor or motivational sayings that reflect the company’s values or history. The point of these designs is to change up the work environment and provide encouragement and support to employees.

Examples of Biophilic Office Designs

You may not know where to start when it comes to redesigning your office with biophilic design elements. Even though there are six principles, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed about incorporating all of them. Here are some biophilic design examples that include the various principles:

  • Green walls: Green or living walls are a simple and majestic way to add greenery to your office. It captures everyone’s attention and livens up a workplace. They’re best in high-traffic areas, like reception areas, so everyone can admire them. However, you can also hang planters on walls to create a similar green effect.
  • Textures: Including various textures, shapes and patterns in your office decor avoids the sterile look that many modern offices have. You can invest in desks with different patterns, textured walls and wall art.
  • Let in more natural light: Install big windows in your office so you can allow in plenty of natural light and have views of the outside. Then, embrace the natural light you have by removing curtains, blinds and other items, like cabinets and desks, that block it and rearranging your furniture so the light flows throughout your office.
  •  Improve air quality: Good air quality is essential for your health. The average American spends 90% of their time indoors, so it’s important to have high-quality air to maintain good health. You can improve your office’s air quality with open windows, filters and live plants.
  • Water: The sound of flowing water is refreshing and soothing. A water feature, like a fountain or stream, makes the workplace more serene.
  • Artwork: Artwork conveys various emotions. People interpret pieces differently, but paintings and photography with natural imagery and landscapes can provide an artistic element to your biophilic design.
  • Plants and greenery: Greenery is the key to biophilic design, and the reason people often associate plants with it is because they are a simple, easy way to introduce greenery. You can use potted plants to decorate throughout the office, like on walls, pathways or islands.
  • Restorative restroom: Creating a spa-like restroom can revitalize and relax your workers. You can add potted plants, nature-scented hand soaps, reed diffusers, a decorative Zen garden and other elements to make a restorative restroom.
  • Natural materials: Select natural materials over synthetic ones, like real wood over desks. Real wood has unique grain patterns and knots that enhance its natural beauty.
  • Safe space: Biophilic office design creates an inviting environment where employees feel comfortable and a part of a community. You can create this feeling by offering social gathering spaces with a relaxing ambiance and private work areas. One way to create private work areas is by using plants to section off work areas on a long desk — this way, the work areas will be open, unlike cubicles, but still individualized.

Tips for Incorporating Biophilic Office Design

Incorporating biophilic design in your office is simple. Focus on using plants, water and natural elements — you want to make your modern office feel more like nature. But it’s important not to overdo it. It’s easy to introduce too many natural elements in your office and end up with a cramped environment instead of a relaxing one. Here are some tips to help you incorporate biophilic design in your office:

  • Don’t use too many plants: Plants are one of the elements of biophilic design, but they aren’t the only element. While it’s important to incorporate plants, make sure you don’t use too many. Too many plants can make the office feel cluttered.
  • Ensure there’s an abundant amount of natural light: Incorporate windows or skylights so your employees have access to natural light throughout the day.
  • Try to avoid synthetic materials: Choose natural materials like stone and wood over synthetic ones like plastic. Stones and wood are more aesthetically appealing and create a tranquil atmosphere.
  • Incorporate water features sparingly: Too many water features close together can be overwhelming because of all the sounds.

How WB Wood Can Help You Incorporate Biophilic Design

WB Wood is an experienced project management and furniture procurement company that provides high-quality furniture to offices around the world. With more than 115 years of industry experience, we are experts in our field. We have the connections and resources to meet your furniture needs and help you incorporate biophilic design in your office. Some of the pieces you can use to integrate biophilic design include:

  • Decor: We offer many unique, luxurious decor items that can help you create a comfortable workplace. Our natural fiber rugs, wall art and planters can tie the design elements of your office’s interior together and create a more natural environment.
  • Seating: Some of our high-quality seating solutions consist of natural materials and are available in earthy tones.
  • Storage: Elegant wood storage solutions help keep your office organized and incorporate natural elements.
  • Tables: Our gorgeous tables come in a variety of styles and materials, like wood and marble.
  • Lighting: You should let in as much natural light as possible, but you need more than natural light to create an excellent workplace. We have many lighting options that can work with natural light to sufficiently illuminate your office.

Contact WB Wood to Learn More

Biophilic design is a popular design trend in 2023. Many offices want to create a comfortable work environment for their employees to foster their creativity and increase their productivity. Creating a pleasant work environment starts with the design of the office space. Office design is about more than simply painting your walls and installing new flooring — it’s also about the furniture and decor you choose.

One of the best ways to incorporate biophilic office design is with the perfect furniture. And that’s where we come in. WB Wood has the connections to get you what you need. We are a best in class Haworth dealer and have 300 other manufacturing partners. Our connections allow us to offer you a wide selection of designs and styles, so you can find what you need. Contact us today to get started!