We love the plants in our office; admittedly it’s sometimes a challenge to keep them alive but that’s our connection with them — watering, making sure they have light and noticing changes. We also go out for regular ‘wellbeing walks’ in the garden. My colleagues and I always return feeling rejuvenated, we regain our focus when back at our desks and, importantly, we’ve had the chance for a natter and to connect with each other.

Field study

I recently conducted a field study, as part of a Masters in Occupational Psychology, and gathered data from fifty indoor workers working in a variety of sectors. The results gave interesting insights into how people respond to taking time out to pause and notice the nature around them. The data told me that taking a break for ten minutes in a nature-filled outdoor environment reduced overall negative mood during the working day, which correlated to better levels of job satisfaction, compared with a control group.

From an open-ended question at the end of the experiment, I was surprised to find a number of participants reported that the very act of taking a pause at work, even during a contracted break, is guilt-inducing. They said things like: “the study has reminded me that I am able to engage with nature even during the busy times at work”, “it was sometimes stressful to fit in a ten minute break”, “(the study) made me take a break, that I wouldn’t normally”, “it was a particularly busy week with no time for a break”, “it was great to have the excuse (to take a break)”.

The study’s results and concluding feedback reinforce to me, that while bringing nature indoors and having accessible outdoor spaces with natural elements are important for employee well-being, this must go hand in hand with role modelling, encouragement and permission to connect with nature. This inevitably means taking a pause to enable that connection.

Like indoor workers, working gardeners also face day to day challenges — the British weather, which delays work and disrupts the best laid plans; tricky clients; time and finance pressures; late delivery of supplies; safety risks; clearing up muddy jobs, to name just a few. But what gardeners know is that being immersed in and connected to nature is ultimately the best antidote to the pressures that come with the job.

So, I endorse bringing nature indoors and combining it with a culture that enables opportunities to pause and reflect in relation to those biophilic elements. Focus in, water, nurture the plants and take notice.

Insights from the Oliver Heath Design Team

Workplace culture experts have found that there is certainly a hierarchy culture within businesses that can hold people back in embracing biophilic design in the workplace. This means that having an employer that backs sustainable ways of thinking is essential and should go hand in hand with implementing biophilia into work life and spaces.

In order for biophilic elements to have an effect, employees and workers need to be able to take these moments without guilt otherwise an essential piece of the premise is missing.

We can help with developing new or existing spaces that incorporate Biophilic Design elements in a range of sectors including; office, healthcare, hospitality, retail and residential.