Bio-What? Biophilia: Managing Facilities With Natural Elements

Nature: A Crucial Element to Workplace Success

Biophilia may sound like something ominous and toxic, but it’s actually the exact opposite—it’s a person’s innate need to connect with nature. This need is especially important for businesses. When introduced into a work environment, natural elements have been shown to increase productivity, happiness, and health. So while “biophilia” is far from becoming a popular corporate term, it is nonetheless coming to facilities managers’ attention. Here’s why.

It's Scientifically Proven

In 1984, scholar Roger Ulrich studied how a hospital’s window views affected the recovery times of surgery patients. Half the patients had a view overlooking a brick wall; the other half had a view of a landscape with trees. The second group experienced a shorter recovery time and less pain, needing less medication than their counterparts with no view. Similar results occurred in Ulrich’s later experiments, which showed that exposure to nature of some sort could also help alleviate stress.


How do Ulrich’s findings apply to the workplace? Other studies have shown that exposure to nature can have a great impact on a company’s bottom line. At the Sacramento Municipal Utility District Call Center, for example, a study similar to Ulrich’s hospital survey was conducted. According to Work Design Magazine, all center workers were divided into two groups: those with natural views, and those without. The former worked at a rate 6-7 percent faster than the latter. Not only did nature improve productivity in this scenario; it also turned out to be a profit-maker, with an average of $2,900 in productivity savings for each employee.


Given these findings, biophilia is gaining traction in the office design world. After all, what facility manager doesn’t want to help the company improve its productivity? The best part is that this design plan doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. Take some of the following tips, for example.

  1. To make workers feel like they’re in a natural setting, place tall plants near the workers’ area and shorter plants further away. This will simulate a receding landscape.
  2. Instead of arranging plants in a careful and symmetrical order, try placing them at random. Use a mixture of different plants for variety and color.
  3. Placing a plant near a window can draw the worker’s eye to the outside, creating a blended effect where both interior and exterior have a biophilic effect.
  4. To create their own natural landscapes right at their desks, workers can of course decorate their desks with potted plants and pictures of natural scenery.


Beyond these simple tips, there are more elaborate ways of greening up the office. If you have the budget for it, you can also consider investing in an ecowall, or a wall filled with plants. Koi ponds, atriums, ceiling windows, and workplace gardens can also be great ways to be more natural while also making your office modern and unique. These biophilic elements have made bold design statements in the likes of Microsoft’s headquarters, the Bloomberg tower, etc.

The next time you’re thinking about the best way to boost productivity in the office, try running an experiment of your own. Place several plants around the office, the breakroom, and the kitchen area, and see how they affect your coworkers. You may see some pleasant results!

image credit: alexander kutsayev/