Our work lives have been designed in stuffy little boxes even though we have an intrinsic pull to be around nature. As humans, our attachment to open spaces, clean air, scenic coastlines, and expansive green forests runs deep. Our desire to be in nature is simply a natural feeling.
Employees spend much of their lives indoors, cutting nature out of the picture and fueling workplace anxiety and stresses. Now, many offices are springing to life with biophilic office designs, reigning in natural elements like sunlight, greenery, and wood finishes to mitigate stress, purify indoor air, and most importantly, to promote the well-being, happiness, and productivity of their employees.
Workers in offices utilizing natural elements (outside views, plants, etc.) displayed better health and more positive inclinations compared to workers with no natural surroundings. Eva Selhub, author of Your Brain on Nature, remarks that nature “stimulates reward neurons in your brain. It turns off the stress response, which means you have lower cortisol levels, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improved immune response.” Amidst these realizations, many large businesses and corporations are going the extra mile to make sure that natural elements are incorporated, building everything from vast indoor gardens to walls teeming with greenery, giving employees much-needed respite during breaks and a calming atmosphere during work hours.
In 2017, Microsoft brought a different kind of meeting room into the fold. Complete with WiFi and plugs for PCs and tablets, the tech giant built a brand new meeting space for employee conferences – accessible by a planked, switchback ramp leading up to a large deck suspended 12 feet off the ground by wood beams. It’s a treehouse. And apart from a meeting room of every inner child’s dreams (complete with the cozy smell of pine), Microsoft employees are also equipped with a 500-acre campus tucked away in the woods.
Amazon’s Seattle HQ boasts glass domes sprinkled with over 40,000 types of plants from cloud forests worldwide. Levels of the greenery-filled Seattle Sphere contain varying seating elements that range from congregation space to secluded nooks, offering options for employees to relax silently or engage with groups while surrounded by nature.
Delos, a powerful real estate and tech firm, forged the WELL Building Standard in 2014, based on medical research that shows how our surroundings affect our health. Headquartered in Manhattan, Delos redesigned their space to serve as a model for these standards, and are ripe with triple-filtered air, cascading plants, standing desks, and oak staircases. In addressing the importance of workplace surroundings, Delos CEO, Paul Scialla, remarks “If we can engineer the box we spend 90 percent of our lives in to deliver health care automatically, that’s a very big impact.”
Google’s Chicago offices are a step beyond the addition of trees and a few plants. Google aimed to improve a specific feature in their Chicago workplaces: light. The space offers increased natural lighting to promote the body’s natural circadian rhythm, and doesn’t spare on live plants, art, edible greenery, and glass-lined conference rooms.