While you’re working, do you ever find yourself gazing out the window (or leaning into someone’s office to see out theirs), imagining what it would be like to be sitting in the sunshine rather than under some fluorescent lights? Do you daydream about experiencing what the day’s weather feels like rather than sitting in a temperature controlled room? I know I’m in the majority when I say I have – and many companies are changing their work spaces to combat this.
Biophilic design, or nature-inspired design, has been making waves as the hottest trend to attract employees and improve workplace conditions – resulting in higher productivity and lower turnover. Some companies, such as Amazon in Seattle or Nuvro in Phoenix, are creating functional outdoor spaces that can be incorporated into work every day. These spaces can include rooftop terraces, pop-up outdoor work spaces, such as the workspaces L.L. Bean tested this summer in New York, or even treehouse workspaces, such as what Microsoft utilizes in Washington.
National Geographic explains how author Richard Louv created the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe a loss of connection with nature that can occur as early as childhood. He is adamant that such a connection will increase creativity, lower stress levels, and improve physical health. His theory is backed by science; studies showed a decrease in cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate for those who spent regular time in nature. As adults who work inside most of the daytime hours in a week, it’s easy to see how our bodies are clamoring for fresh air.
These options must be on the forefront of hiring managers’ minds as millennials in the workforce demand more workplace flexibility. As this generation moves into the largest part of the workforce, we’ll start to see more creative outdoor or nature-inspired work spaces become a regular part of Fortune 500 company culture to create more of a draw for workplace conditions, which will inevitably trickle down to smaller businesses. Even freelancers are now seeking spaces where they can access a desk while still being able to have some sort of connection to the outdoors, and the more progressive companies are jumping on board; a WeWork location in Washington, D.C. has open-air access, and One Wild Life, based in San Diego, provides mobile working vehicles with multiple windows that travel to nature-based locations.
Of course, in areas such as the Midwest where there is a bevy of inclement weather, working outside is not an option for much of the year. During winter months where long days inside can lead to low motivation, low energy, low morale and even Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can help to bring nature inside by adding greenery to your space.
With every effort companies make to improve workplace conditions and bring down stress levels, we each get a little closer each day to creating a more balanced life. We could all use a little less time in an office, and a little more time in the sun.
Photo credits: Station F, eOffice