The way we work is changing and, in response, so too is office design. As employees start seeking meaningful work and employers begin to focus on metrics like staff wellbeing and job satisfaction, we are seeing workplace design become more considered and inviting. 

The average Australian puts in almost 41 hours of work each week. That’s a substantial amount of time, so it makes sense that the design of an office will affect whether an employee wants to work for an organisation. In the report The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, a third of respondents said that office design affects their decision when accepting or declining a job. For many people, a well-designed office is not only a pleasant space to work, it also assures them that the organisation cares about its staff. 

So how can you make your workplace more conducive to staff happiness and productivity? One way is through biophilic design – a principle of integrating natural elements into the built environment. Research compiled in The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace found that the calming presence of elements such as plants, natural materials and sunlight helps employees to better cope with stress and pressure, in turn improving their productivity. 

The report found that plants and other natural elements had the following impacts on staff: 

  • Creativity improves by 15% 

  • Productivity increases by 6%

  • Wellbeing is reported to increase by 15%

To show you ways to introduce more greenery into your office, we have put together ideas from inspiring workplaces around the world. 

Install a green wall

 Image via  Inhabitat

Image via Inhabitat

At Airbnb’s head office in San Francisco, an impressive 1,226 sq ft green wall has been installed in the main atrium, creating a living piece of art. The green wall scales three floors of the office, while the design of the atrium allows natural light to filter in. The sets a calming tone as staff and visitors enter the office and the green wall can be viewed from many of the workspaces and meeting rooms within the building. 

Related reading: Vertical gardening – the ultimate spacesaver

Add potted plants to the office

 Image via  designboom , photography by Toshikyuki Yano and Michael Feather

Image via designboom, photography by Toshikyuki Yano and Michael Feather

One of the simplest ways to introduce greenery to an office is using potted plants. In Tokyo, the office of tech company LivePerson cleverly uses plants as a way to break up the space. The office is located in a single room and rather than building walls or dividers, the company allows its staff to arrange the office as they please. All of the furniture and plants can be easily moved, which gives the organisation greater flexibility to rearrange the office as the team grows. 


Use natural colours and materials  

 Image via  Breathe Architecture , photography by  Peter Clarke

Image via Breathe Architecture, photography by Peter Clarke

When international tech company Slack set up its new Melbourne office, they called upon Breathe Architecture to create an inviting workspace. The abundance of plants adds a sense of serenity to the space, which is complemented by a green and grey colour palette and the use of natural materialssuch as recycled timber. The effect is incredibly calming, with employees reporting that the workspace has a Zen feel to it. To ensure that the effects of the design are not disturbed, employees are required to take phone calls in meeting rooms, rather than at their desks in the open-plan work area. 


Embrace natural vistas

 Image via  Inhabitat , photography by  Iwan Baan

Image via Inhabitat, photography by Iwan Baan

If your office has a view out to trees, parks, water or another natural setting, make this a focal point of its design. In Spain, architecture firm SelgasCano has fully embraced this design idea, building its office in the woods of Madrid. The glass wall takes full advantage of this natural setting, providing views out to the forest floor and allowing sunlight into the office. This design means that artificial lighting isn’t necessary during the day, which reduces the company’s power costs and makes the office more sustainable. 


Choose low-maintenance plants 

 Image via  designboom , photography by  Peter Clark

Image via designboom, photography by Peter Clark

When it comes to choosing plants for an office, it’s wise to select hardy indoor plants that can handle the conditions of artificial lighting and ventilation. Birkenstock in Melbourne is a great example of this, where mother-in-law's tongue/snake plant is used throughout its new office. These plants are easy to care for and don’t like too much water, which means less upkeep is necessary. The repetition of this plant creates a calming effect and is a pleasant way to divide each workspace. 

Related reading: Biophilic design at work – why we need greener offices

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!