How ‘biophilic’ design can create a better workspace


Embrace the power of indoor plants for an inspired return to the office!

With the threat of Covid seemingly receding, thoughts turn to the return to the office - whether it be full time, part-time or on a rota basis. Many people have been working from home for a year or more - and what initially seemed virtually impossible to manage has become a well-polished art.

Unless you have a job that you haven’t been able to do from home, you will probably have established a whole new set of routines to enable you to adapt to the circumstances - almost a whole new way of life. Does sitting at a desk in an office block an hour’s car or train journey away fill you with dread? Or are you keen to get back into office life?

Of course, it depends on the sort of company you work for, but a lot of companies are realising that the days of everyone coming into the office every day are pretty much in the past. Even before Covid, there was increasing demand for flexible working hours and partial home working - especially from people with children.

Now after over a year of home working and realising it’s perfectly possible - and even in some cases preferable - companies are making plans to adapt to the changing world of work and the desires of their employees. After all, happy employees make for a productive workforce!

Working life is changing and the office must change too!

The whole idea of the office - and what it is - is in flux. No longer a place for the compulsory daily grind, a spartan, minimal environment. Now it must become a place for people to meet and work when they need to make the trip in - a place for client meetings and creative inspiration, for workforce welfare and mental wellbeing.

Your office must be a place to tempt the best people to work for you and entice the best clients to come. To make the office space a more productive, creative, psychologically better place to be, companies are looking at ways in which the environment can be improved to enhance the wellness of the people working within it.

Indoor plants are the key to the resurrection of the office Increasingly, companies are looking at nature, natural materials and finding ways to integrate organic elements into the office environment. Biophilia, an innate desire to feel close to nature and living things is now a serious design consideration.

Think of how you’ve come to appreciate more time spent outside, walking the dog, doing the garden - generally communing more with nature. Why not consider bringing more of nature into the office in the form of indoor plants - and by doing so reaping the benefits you feel when you are outside surrounded by trees and plants?

Think how much less stressed you feel on a work call in the garden rather than in a stark, clinical room with just a desk and your laptop in it! Or maybe you work in a room full of people all at their desks - away from plants and natural elements. Compare that to sitting working on the patio surrounded by plants. With indoor plants, that natural feeling can be an integral part of the office, so that you feel more connected with nature even if you are inside a tower block.

Even doctors are now prescribing time spend with nature - not as a panacea for all ills but certainly to help with many psychological difficulties. Depression, anxiety and phobias - time spent with plants and nature can help alleviate many mental issues. Plants and noticing elements of nature, or looking after plants and noticing them grow and thrive can be very therapeutic and beneficial for psychological health.

Depression and anxiety are intrinsically linked with many physical problems. All these health issues equate to more days taken off work and less productivity for companies. It makes sense to nourish the psychological and harness the power of plants to improve the wellbeing of your staff and their productivity!

Use indoor plants to fill your workspace with natural elements and you bring nature closer to your staff - you will see for yourself the benefits plants bring. Many companies have already taken the initiative and have gone to great lengths to incorporate plants into their office spaces.

The Amazon Spheres in Seattle and the Google office in Tel Aviv are the leaders in the field of biophilic design. Huge living walls and rainforest plants make their offices more like tropical jungles with spaces for creative thought - rather than minimal, sterile environments for working. Think Eden Project meets upmarket London cafe, natural elements, plants and materials everywhere you look.

The perception of clean air, healthier living and more creative working make these offices fabulous places to work in. We Work is another company closer to home which uses indoor plants to make its workspaces more inviting and more organic feeling. The use of natural materials and plants such as palms scattered through the work areas makes them inspiring and inviting places to imagine yourself working in. Gone are the days of the odd plastic plant in a sterile-looking pot gathering dust in a corner!

So what’s the evidence that indoor plants really benefit you in the office?

So is there really evidence that indoor plants do more than look attractive in the office environment? Of course, they can look amazing from a design perspective - how about that living hanging ceiling above the board table? Looks of course aren’t by any means the only reason to bring indoor plants into your office. Numerous studies have shown the impact on productivity of having indoor plants in an office space.

A study from Exeter University concluded that offices which had plants in them made the workers 15% more productive even with just a few plants scattered through the offices. Making sure that everyone could see a plant from their desk improved performance in memory and cognitive tests compared to before the plants were brought into the office.

A 2010 study by the University of Technology, Sydney found that when plants were introduced into the office space, stress was reported to be reduced by 37%, depression by 58%, a 44% reduction in anger and hostility and fatigue was reported to have dropped by 38%. Although it’s a moot point whether indoor plants actually improve the air quality, the perception is that they do so people tend to report that they feel the air is cleaner and fresher when there are indoor plants in the office environment.

This study also demonstrated how having indoor plants in the office gave the impression that the company was more caring, more concerned for employees, had a healthy ethos and was trustworthy. So indoor plants improve the perception of a company as well as making positive changes to the health and wellbeing of employees.

With physical health intrinsically linked to the psychological, indoor plants lift the spirit and feed the soul, giving that essential link to the natural environment. We are not designed to exist for hours every day in sterile boxes up escalators, without access to plants and the outdoors.

Natural elements like indoor plants allow relief from the more dramatic stress of the urban environment and allow the psyche to replenish and recharge, so enabling people to be more creative and productive.

So how do you harness the power of plants for the rebirth of the office?

So you’d like to improve your office environment to make it a better place to work in and also to hold events in? Work-life has changed and you want to change your office environment to accommodate that change.

It might be the case that less time will be spent in the office, offices might become more spaces for people to find corners to work in when they are in, or to have meetings face to face with colleagues and clients. Lots more time might still be spent working at home - but the office space must be as inspiring and enticing as possible for the time it is in use.

Are you thinking that your company isn’t Amazon and you can’t go in for living plant walls? How do you include indoor plants in your office space without having your own biosphere? You want to reap the benefits of a more biophilic working environment without the huge costs of a total transformation. It’s achievable and easy to make the office environment much more connected with nature using indoor plants.

Even adding a few plants to each space within your office will break up the urban lines and bring freshness and vitality in. You don’t need to employ teams of people to maintain office plants - they are low maintenance and for the most part happy to be left alone. The office does not have to become an urban jungle - natural elements scattered through the space are enough to bring significant benefits.

If you need help with selection, Happy Houseplants are experts at providing top quality indoor plants for offices and homes. We offer excellent, friendly advice and help with everything from selection to delivery; from plant care advice to plant hire for occasions.

We will help you transform your office environment so that however often your staff come into work, they enjoy and benefit from a more biophilic working space which in turn enhances their mental health and productivity.

Which plants are recommended for the office?

Great plants we recommend for office spaces are palms, succulents and cacti. These are indoor plants that require very little looking after and look stunning and stylish in any office. Palms like Kentia Palm, Areca Palm and palm-like shrubs such as Yuccas bring elegance and soften the sharp, clinical lines of some office spaces. Bringing the vibe of the rainforest they are relaxing to have around and inspiring to look at.

Snake plants - such as Sansevieria Victoria, Sansevieria Trifasciata and Sansevieria Laurentil are ideal sculptural succulents that bring fresh vibrancy and refreshing looks - they need very little watering to keep them in perfect condition. Snake plants are renowned as excellent plants for the office - they just provide that flavour of the tropics and the natural world whilst being super low maintenance.

People worry that an office won’t have enough direct light for indoor plants to thrive - in fact, the opposite is true! Most indoor plants prefer indirect light rather than direct sunlight so office spaces are ideal for them. In the rainforest, the natural habitat of a lot of indoor plants, the light tends to be diffuse, plants are sheltered from the direct sun by taller trees. So there is no need to be concerned about placing an indoor plant in the middle of the office, as long as there is indirect light reaching it then there won’t be any problem.

The classic cheese plant or Monstera Deliciosa is an ideal office plant - it's a lush, large-leaved tropical indoor plant with fascinating holes in its leaves, hence the name Cheese Plant! There is also a beautiful variegated version of the Cheese Plant which is exceptionally stylish. Similarly, rubber plant with their wonderfully waxy leaves are a popular choice for office environments.

Aspidistra and Strelizia are also excellent office plants - Aspidistra is also known as the Cast Iron Plant because of its ability to thrive in almost any environment! Both of these indoor plants bring a flavour of the exotic to an office and just make it a more earthy and relaxing place to be. More relaxed staff mean more productive people!

Trailing indoor plants like Devil’s Ivy can look inspirational placed on a shelf with leaves cascading downwards, giving that luxuriant rainforest feel. Great for a creative environment! If it’s good fortune you want then a beautiful Chinese money plant - Pilea with its wonderfully glossy, round leaves is also stunning in an office!

For a really sculptural look, you could choose cacti like Euphorbia Eritrea - another very low maintenance indoor plant that conjures up visions of the desert! A stunning and bold statement to have in an office and certainly a talking point!

For a reception or larger space, a large indoor tree-like Ficus Amstel King provides instant impact, giving that outdoor feeling in your indoor space. This indoor tree is around 2.5m tall so it’s certain to catch the eye and really does bring a more relaxing vibe to a stark space!

With the world of work going through such a transition, the future of offices and office life might be very different from the way it was before Covid. Most people agree though that there is still definitely a place for working in the office at least some of the time.

People are communicators - there will always be a need for an office, somewhere to meet face to face. No longer a stark, functional workplace, with indoor plants the office can become an oasis that benefits the mental health of staff, enhances wellbeing, that promotes productivity and success.

Be part of the workplace revolution - embrace the power of nature and see indoor plants transform your office and the people who work there. Allow the power of indoor plants to ease the transition from working at home to time spent at the office, whatever time that may be. Things won’t be the same as before….they will be better!

Bring the beauty and benefits of plants from the outside to the inside. Let Happy Houseplants help you style your office with indoor plants and see the difference they make for yourself!

Check out our blogs for more houseplant information.

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