As work psychologists we have an enduring interest in both the individual and environmental factors that influence business outcomes. In particular, the interaction between an individual and their work environment can be a crucial determinant of both an employee’s success and happiness in his or her role.
The concept of biophilia highlights an innate connection between humans and nature, which more recently has been recognised as a key consideration when designing and developing workspaces. The idea of incorporating nature into the built environment through biophilic design is less often seen as a luxury in the modern workplace, but rather as a sound economic investment into employees’ health, well-being and performance.
The Biophilia Imperative
What makes work feel good? For modern organisations and their people, it’s about much more than the end goal of productivity and profit. How we gain meaning, a sense of well-being and of purpose in the workplace is just as vital, not only to feel good but to perform effectively too. Increasingly, employers and employees themselves are engaging in this debate about a more comprehensive view of work and the role it plays in our lives, as are governments and societies with the growth of projects measuring national well-being across the world. A connection with the natural world is a big part of that discussion however we frame it – escaping the concrete jungle, achieving a better level of balance or simply being in a space that is enjoyable.
The increasing academic and organisational interest in biophilia and biophilic design is driven by the positive outcomes that it can help create for individuals and businesses, many of which are discussed at length in this report. The timing behind this burgeoning interest lies in the wider sociohistorical context of a major movement of populations globally into urban areas – we are as disconnected from nature as we have ever been. Figures show1 a remarkable shift during the 60 years between 1950 and 2010 with some countries seeing over 40% of their population residing in urban areas compared with non-urban areas. In France that figure is 22.6%, in the Netherlands, 26.8%, in the United Arab Emirates, 22.4%, in Switzerland a massive 32.7% and in Turkey, an even greater 44.8%.