Workplace design has seen many changes even in the last few years. We've gone from lean to fun and by fun, we mean playground spaces to accommodate younger generations and less formality. But with many companies now employing hot-desk policies and agile/flexible working, workplaces continue to evolve.
There are many theories of how the workplace might look by 2025 and beyond but the recent recognition of one of the oldest theories might just turn everything on its head yet again.
We're talking about biophilia of course. First recognised or given a name at least, back in the 1980s, biophilia is something we all need to feel at our best. It's about our innate necessity to connect with nature for our own wellbeing. It's part of our DNA.
As one researcher in the field of plant benefits used to say, 'Man originally grew up in natural surroundings - think cave men - but in the last century things have moved us so far beyond this that our connection to nature has been lost. This change has been so fast that our bodies haven't had time to catch up.' This helps to explain why we need that connection with the natural world.
What do we mean by biophilia?
In terms of working spaces, for the most part, it's about bringing the outside in or getting out in the great outdoors. It's about working in natural rather than artificial light plus using natural materials wherever possible. In recent studies which also find that many office workers sit for far too long every day, to get up and go outside at lunch time kills two birds.
But still for many of us, we need to be at a desk for much of the time. Bringing plants into the workspace is a great way to give everyone that contact with nature. Plus we can't deny that plants can also enhance the aesthetics of a workspace.
Of course there are other benefits which are linked to biophilia. For instance working amongst plants helps to improve our mood; one school of thought is that if you can see plants from your desk you will be less stressed. Others suggest that a plant on or close to your desk will have the same effect.
All live plants, however and wherever they are installed, not only fulfil our biophilic needs but also add to workers' productivity, creativity, health and wellbeing.
What company doesn't want to improve its productivity levels? Well in a study carried out in real offices in the UK, the Netherlands and Australia found that adding plants to working spaces improved productivity by at least 15%. And that's a conservative figure as other studies have achieved even higher results.
Many academic studies have also shown that plants have a good effect on our general wellbeing, something that is high on most companies agendas these days, and they refresh and clean the air too.
Interior design and Green walls
There are many ways to incorporate plants without taking up too much valuable space or causing health & safety hazards.
Using cabinet top planters often bespoke, seems to be in vogue in recent installations. This has several positive points: the plants can be seen by all in the area; they create natural boundaries and ameliorate noise.
Of course, there are still many beautiful planters available which can match corporate colours or bespoke planters for those who require something different or specific.
Also popular are green walls. There are many systems available which can be installed in situ. These can cover large or smaller spaces but ensure a space gets a good dose of plants contained in one area. There are also mobile green walls that can be moved around to make screens for different areas and even plant pictures which adorn walls as green art.
Another form of green wall gaining popularity are ones formed from natural mosses and lichens. Moss has a much larger surface area than any other plant so works well to clean the air and offer all the biophilic benefits.
The many shades and forms of the mosses make them very attractive but they are much lower in maintenance needs.
Apparently, Buddhist monks built them in temples thousands of years ago to avoid distraction and aid mediation. So we can see how they would help to de-stress a modern workforce too.
Of course your plants will need maintenance. A trained technician from an efig member can ensure that your plants are looked after well, regularly, given the water and feed they need and tamed or replaced as necessary.
This is important for all plant installations and none more so than for green walls. Most have an automatic watering system but the plants will need checking and possibly pruning on a regular basis.
For more information for your biophilic needs or to find a supplier go to efig's members' directory.
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