Enabling physical and mental health in a work space leads to improved rates of productivity, less fiscal cost and reduced anxiety. Employees and employers alike can adopt health-promoting strategies from nature to a work space design. Bringing in the best of the outdoors into the indoors is essential to the process. Jerry Smith of The Center for Health Design explains, “Interior environments are enhanced when views or elements of the outside world are brought into the interior design” (The Center For Health Design).
University of Melbourne researcher, Kate Lee, confirms the profound effect of nature on employee and employer performance, “Our findings suggest that engaging in these green microbreaks—taking time to look at nature through the window, on a walk outside, or even on a screen saver—can be really helpful for improving attention and performance in the workplace” (Harvard Business Review).
Implementing elements of natural design involves a full spectrum of outdoor related sensory stimuli. The pleasantries of nature affect all five of the human senses. Imagine a sea breeze, the vibrant green of a palm tree, the sound of waves, the taste of coconut. In order to convey the diverse details of nature within the workplace, a designer must keep the five human senses in mind.
5 Sensory-related Ways to Convey Nature in an Indoor Work Space
Touch: Leafy indoor plants such as the Bamboo Fern or the Arrowhead Vine offer tactile and interesting stimuli. Succulents, such as Rosettes (but stay away from cacti!), though less “leafy” are smooth to the touch and can also serve as a respite from the keyboard.
Sound: An indoor fountain provides the comforting and calming sound of running water. Additionally, playing nature sounds softly in the interior space lowers stress levels and encourages creativity.
Sight: Framed and pleasantly spaced images of natural settings ease the mind. Also vibrant flowers and flora, such as Birds of Paradise, enliven the area.
Smell: A plant, such as the Aloe Vera or the Peace Lily, serve as natural air filtration devices, keeping the office air fresh and pleasant. Herbs, such as basil and rosemary elicit fresh scents. There is also the option of opening windows, or utilizing products designed to smell like nature.
Taste: Keep fresh produce available for employees, or at minimum, encourage the consumption of fresh foods in the work place. Provide the option of herbal tea or fruit infused water, in addition to the usual coffee and soda.
Whether it’s tea time or a quick glance at a landscape painting, the slightest reminder of nature in an office designboosts the minds and health of employees and their employers.