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Biophilia: What Is It?

Written by: phs Greenleaf

phs Greenleaf has been providing planting and landscaping services to businesses for over 25 years, including indoor and outdoor plants, artificial and live planting, living walls, grounds maintenance and Christmas trees and decorations.

We don’t want to mention the p word too much, so we won’t: suffice it to say that, following the last couple of years, we’re all now hyper-aware of the personal value and importance of being outdoors. We know those lunchtime walks round the park really helped us out; we definitely felt calmer and more positive after a pleasant jaunt surrounded by greenery. Maybe some of you got a little more into gardening or started an increasingly out-of-control houseplant collection. Maybe we enjoyed those walks so much we’ve now incorporated them into our daily lives.

And maybe—just maybe—getting back to the office for a few days each week, popping out for a bite at our favourite cafes and restaurants, or having a cheeky half at the local bar or pub was a little bit harder to begin with than we thought?

A lot of the difficulty many of us felt—some nervousness at being in a crowded space, perhaps, or it just taking a while to adjust to being around lots of people again—is down to one simple thing: the design of those spaces we’ve returned to. Design: pure and simple.

And that’s where biophilic design comes in. With many of us reconnecting with nature during the various lockdowns, we’ve felt for ourselves the positive impact a little green in our environment can make—and studies back this up, too. It’s been proven that being around nature and plants makes us feel safer, happier, calmer and more content. There’s a word for this: Biophilia.

Biophilic design is centred around the idea of bringing nature into the human space, whether that’s the office, a bar, a restaurant, or even outdoors, like the pedestrian café culture space in the heart of your town.

Studies have shown that bringing flowers, trees, plants and the like (moss walls, anyone?) into the workplace has a positive impact on the people working there. And phs Greenleaf is ready and waiting to support you in making your business space, whatever it may be, into somewhere that clients, visitors and staff enjoy being in.  

What can biophilic design do for your business?

It’s more important than ever now to encourage footfall in your business premises but, more than that, it’s crucial that people feel safe and comfortable when they visit you. Staff, too, need to feel they’re in a comfy and safe environment: biophilic design can help with all that and more.  

Some of the tangible benefits of biophilic design (at any point in time—this isn’t just some new COVID-based trend!) include:

  • Bringing back returning customers—and attracting new ones, too,
  • Making the time spent in a space feel even better than before,
  • Boosting both productivity and well-being levels,
  • Providing creative and really useful solutions to any COVID measures in place.

And it’s not just indoor areas that biophilia can make a difference to, either: aesthetically pleasing, healthy plants outside your premises put visitors in mind of health and cleanliness—not something to sneeze at, in today’s climate!

What exactly are the benefits of biophilic design for people?

We’re glad you asked. Besides making the place look swanky, there are massive benefits to your people, too: and benefits to your people mean benefits to your business.

Incorporating biophilia into your new designs can help to:

Boost productivity

Simply put: if somewhere looks nice, then people want to spend time there. If your staff love how their workplace looks, they’ll feel calmer and more content while they’re there, and productivity levels will rise.

In fact, a recent UK study (with the catchy title, “The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Office Space”) states that those productivity levels can rise as high as 15% with increased contact with nature. Staff have shown lower levels of stress and anxiety, too, with a more biophilia-centred design approach.

And the inclusion of more plants in, for example, a restaurant dining space, has been shown to increase customers’ willingness to spend (up to 35% more, in some cases!).

Of course, besides being visually pleasing, adding more plants to your environment has a big impact on air quality, and that’s something that’s on everyone’s mind these days—so, knowing that the nearby plants are taking care of the air quality helps boost that well-being, too.

Better air quality = higher concentration levels

While we’re on the subject of air quality, it’s not all about people’s perceptions: plants, of course, are well-known for improving air quality by recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. And that increase in oxygen in a workplace means that anyone nearby can enjoy enhanced functioning. People will feel less tired and are less likely to suffer from mental fatigue, which seems to us like a great way to boost productivity, too!

Boost those creativity levels!

No matter your business, creative ability can be crucial—whether it’s marketing’s new ad campaign, R&D looking for the next big idea or just thinking outside the box when it comes to your afternoon tea selection, there’s no argument that more creativity can only be a good thing.

And so it’s great news that being surrounded by plants gives a great boost to those creativity levels. We’re all stimulated by our environments, and building on that by including plants, moss walls, colourful flowers and views of the outside is a great design move.

High staff well-being = higher levels of staff retention

With greater capacity for creativity, calmness, contentedness and lower levels of anxiety and stress comes greater well-being—and greater well-being makes for greater staff retention. (We realise we’ve said “great” a few too many times here, but… it really is all great!)

Simply adopting a more biophilic approach to the design of your premises can mean big savings in the often eye-watering costs associated with high staff turnover, like those around recruitment, training and loss of productivity.

Of course, biophilia is a little more than just shoving a couple of begonias next to the water fountain: read on for more.

What biophilic solutions can phs Greenleaf deliver for your business?

While it’s fantastic to have a few more plants and better air quality in our lives, biophilic design isn’t just about popping a spider plant on your reception desk. Sure, there’s more to it—but the good news is that the process is highly adaptable, and bespoke design that works with what you’ve got and what you need is where it’s at.

Think natural light, views of your premises’ surroundings and more colours, as well as including plants, trees and other factors that can bring nature into the immediate environment. You could also consider using different textures in your premises’ décor and using, for instance, grass-like floors to bring nature in from the cold.

phs Greenleaf uses biophilia as a great solution to the impact of COVID. We’re very proud of our range of divider planting troughs and easily transportable cabinet planters as simple and flexible fixes to distancing issues, for instance. Clients are using them to divide office spaces—and they’re much better-looking than the old solutions, like grey divider walls or neon tape!

And, not only do plants look great and improve both general well-being and air quality, but they also improve the workspace by absorbing sound and improving acoustics (so, we don’t need to raise our voices so often—great for reducing anxiety as well as lowering COVID transmission risks).

This all sounds very expensive… what am I really looking at, investing in biophilic design?

Don’t worry: biophilic design is absolutely not about overspending on fancy plants and designer living walls: it’s about getting the right fix for your business, your staff and your clients. Sometimes, even a relatively small change can have a big impact.

Simple solutions work brilliantly in many cases. Here are a few ideas we’ve got together:

  • Getting that bit more natural light into an office space can work wonders.
  • Transforming workspace areas with cost-effective natural room dividers for that extra feeling of privacy, as well as increased protection from COVID.
  • Making use of the space you have outside—whether that’s a garden or roof space or simply a balcony, consider adding some outdoor work-friendly features, like tables and chairs.
  • Incorporating a greater variety of colours into the workspace can be a big hit, too. Colour psychology is a fascinating area: did you know that different colours have a variety of impacts on the human mind? Let’s collectively step away from magnolia paint and see what the future holds!
  • Bring in some natural materials, like stone and wood. Even without greenery, the connection that natural materials give us to nature is not to be ignored.

We hope this has helped clear up the big question (“what IS biophilia?!”) and given a little inspiration, too. Creating an inviting space for your business can have an enormous impact not only on staff well-being but also on your business’s bottom line. Get in touch today to see what phs Greenleaf can do to boost your biophilic credentials.

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