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The natural office

The natural office

Biophilia is not a new talking point yet, following a couple of years where its benefits have been discussed at length, the adoption of biophilic principles is becoming more commonplace. And it’s about time – within EU office environments, 55 per cent of employees have no access to greenery, 42 per cent have no natural light and 7 per cent have no windows. The UK has the longest working hours in Europe, so we should be leading the way in adopting biophilic principles. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) this month launched its “Biophilic Office Project”, a two-year study that will provide quantifiable evidence on the benefits of biophilic design on health, wellbeing and productivity in the workplace. It’s an important study – employee sickness costs the UK economy £15bn each year, while productivity continues to lack behind our European counterparts. When thinking about the term biophilia most people imagine enormous living walls but, in practice, it is more straightforward to create an office environment that is sensitive to biophilic principles:

Natural light

The benefits of natural light are well documented, playing an important role in wellbeing, regulating our circadian rhythms and preventing health issues such as insomnia. In some offices, increasing the flow of full spectrum sunlight could be as simple as removing traditional cubicle desking, which blocks out natural light. Different lighting choices are also a possibility, moving away from electric systems that emit harsh blue spectrum artificial light.

Living plants

The introduction of plants and greenery contributes to a more natural environment, creating a mood-boosting effect. Plants also raise oxygen levels, increasing concentration and reducing mental fatigue. Bringing flora and fauna into the workplace can be as simple as introducing greenery in communal spaces and pot plants on desks – low maintenance succulents are a smart choice.

Natural materials

In adopting a more natural design, the use of materials with stone, wood and slate finishes is key. Even ‘biomimicary’ materials, made to look like natural textures and colours, can have a beneficial impact. Human-manufactured elements should mimic natural forms in some way.

Outdoor views

It may not be possible to provide all employees with outside views, in which case offices should have a workspace containing visual décor of some form, incorporating materials with natural elements. In a wider office context, murals depicting natural scenes such as mountains and greenery creates a calmer, more content feel than plain walls. Sounds that mimic nature, such as running water and birdsong, can also help to counteract the impact of a windowless office.

Colour palette

Research has shown that the use of mute colours, such as grey and nude palettes, were linked to higher levels of stress. Colours should reflect the natural elements that inspire us, such as green, blue, yellow and brown The potential benefits to introducing biophilia to the workplace are significant and long-lasting. It’s positive to see that its benefits are being taken seriously, and we await the results of BRE’s study with interest.

Offering a unique turnkey approach, Aztec can deliver fit-out or refurbishment projects from start to finish. We even have our own in-house joinery workshop, creating bespoke office furniture. Contact Aztec Interiors and speak to our team of professional office fit-out specialists – we’d love to help.

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