This, our last post in this Arbour month series, looks at the concept of biophilia and why plants are a crucial addition to the built environment.
In the first of our series of blog posts celebrating Arbour month, we looked at the history of Arbour day around the world. In our following posts we looked at both the environmental benefits of interior plants, as well as the physical and psychological benefits for employees of having plants in their workplaces.
Biophilia is such a critical part of what we do here at Ambius that we thought it was worth further discussion. The term biophilia means “love of life or living systems” and originated with German-born American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. It was first used by Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.
The biophilia hypothesis
The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the biophilia hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984).
He defines biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life“. Biophilic design – an extension of biophilia – has come to mean the incorporation of natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views and other experiences of the natural world into the modern, built environment.
Design for the modern environment
So whilst we may all yearn for connections with nature, modern life means that now – more than ever – people are removed from nature, working in sealed offices with little or no access to greenery or natural light.
Natural materials, too, are typically in short supply in most offices. Plastic chairs, metal desks, metal cabinets, and allergen-loaded carpets add no health benefit whatsoever to the place where people spend the majority of their waking lives.
What millennial office workers expect
Research by the University of Texas among a group of millennials (also known as Generation Y) indicated that 61% wanted to work in natural light or in natural light combined with artificial light, and that 71% wanted to be able to see and feel greenness in the workplace.
According to an article in the NY Times, millennial-minded companies are going to great lengths to integrate greenery into their offices. The Etsy headquarters in Brooklyn spans nine floors and is home to more than 11,000 plants, including dozens of large-scale plant displays and living walls.
“Every employee has a sight line to greenery,” said Hilary Young, Etsy’s sustainability manager, who helps the company seek ways to conserve the environment. “It’s a beautiful space that inspires and boosts productivity.” “I love that when I look up from my work, all I see is green,” said Katie Hawley, 28, a senior editor at Etsy. “I feel happier just looking at them.”
The benefits are tangible
This feeling is supported a growing body of research that supports the notion that changes as small as adding a plant to an office desk can amplify motivation and productivity in the workplace. Research has also revealed that workers’ idea-generation, creative performance and problem-solving skills improved substantially in workplace environments that included flowers and plants, as we discussed in our recent blog post.
Perhaps this is why technology giant Amazon redesigned their Seattle offices to include “three domes called The Spheres which are filled with an incredible 40,000 plants, feature a real waterfall and a treehouse, and are designed to give the impression of walking through a rainforest”.
In a press release, Amazon described the Spheres as “a result of innovative thinking about the character of the workplace and an extended conversation about what is typically missing from urban offices –a direct link to nature. Studies suggest that spaces that embrace biophilic design can inspire creativity and even improve brain function.”
The workplace of the future
Millennials made up 40% of the workforce in 2020, and by 2025 they’ll account for three-quarters of all workers. Here at Ambius we believe that they will continue to push for workplaces that embody biophilic design principles.
Millennials put an end to the idea of the office as a place to go to simply from 9 to 5. Pre-pandemic they embodied the concept of biophilia by demanding an office and a work culture that was an extension of themselves and their home lives. Now, as they consider whether or not to return to the office, the workplace environment becomes even more of a deciding factor.
Make sure that your workplace is somewhere to which colleagues want to return. Contact Ambius on 0800 77 77 88.