In his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv writes that modern-day children are not connecting to nature. Children aren’t allowed to run off on their own and explore for hours at a time. Climbing a tree is banned for being too dangerous, and the siren call of electronic devices pulls on kids’ attention instead. As a result, we are seeing an increase in “nature deficit disorder.” He doesn’t mean this in a medical sense, but in a cultural one. A lack of connecting to nature results in increased anxiety, a sense of unfocused attention, and overall worse outcomes for productivity and satisfaction.
Louv dates the shift from nature-loving childhoods to modern ones quite some time ago. Many of those children he’s talking about are all grown up now and working in modern offices. Children are no longer connecting to nature as they once were. The distance from nature leads to a sense of overall disconnection. It’s harder for people to find their own internal purpose when they don’t recognize their contribution in a larger world.
Luckily, even small doses of nature-infused design principles can reverse some of these negative impacts. Biophilic (nature-loving) designs can boost morale, increase productivity, and create a generally more cooperative workspace. For an added bonus, they are often also beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, too!
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to bring the outdoors indoors is by using natural lighting. Wide, open floor plans that allow light to filter through space will help make it feel inviting and warm. Workers who are exposed to natural light throughout the day sleep better at night, making them more alert and productive when they’re at work.
Inviting Lunch Spaces
Sixty-seven percent of Americans report that they eat lunch at their desks more than once a week. This has profound negative impacts on their overall health and also their productivity. Most people already spend too much time sitting in one place without stretching. a major contributor to chronic back and neck pain. Those who eat lunch at their desks also miss out on the mental break of taking a moment away from their tasks. As a result, they don’t get the benefit of clarity and fresh eyes when they return.
It also decreases key social connections because people are less likely to build relationships with co-workers. Creating inviting lunch spaces that utilize natural settings can help alleviate these problems. Whether it’s an outdoor space with ample seating and plenty of greenery or an indoor atrium with lots of potted plants and natural light, creating an inviting space will get people away from their desks for a moment, increasing the quality of the work they produce when they return.
Even artificial displays of natural elements have been found to boost overall well-being. Use nature-based decor whenever possible. Landscapes, seascapes, and florals in the form of paintings and photographs are an easy way to bring a bit of the outdoors inside. Consider natural elements when designing floor tiles and carpeting options as well. Lighting that resembles nature is welcoming and much more pleasing than the harsh glow of overhead fluorescents. Nature is always in style, so adding these elements into design plans or renovations helps ensure a long-lasting decor.
In many cases, the disconnect with nature has been such a part of our lives that we don’t even know what we’re missing. Our brains, though, still have a hard-wired positive response to these influences. Getting in touch with nature is a guaranteed way to make the workplace happier and more productive.