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Three plants in fabric pot covers standing on white, empty wall. Aloe in the office shelf

The Benefits of Growing Aloe in the Office

The aloe plant has been cultivated for thousands of years and makes for an attractive and easy-to-care-for plant for any office. Recognizable for its medicinal value, aloe requires little care or watering. It’s a great option for employees who want to bring plants into the office, but don’t want to spend time on maintenance. Learn more about the benefits of aloe in the office place.

Growing Aloe in the Office

Aloe is easy to grow indoors as an office plant. If you live in certain climates, you can even grow aloe outside on an office patio, balcony, or outside around the building. The most cost-effective part of growing your own aloe is that you do not need to destroy the plant to use it medicinally—each leaf contains aloe gel. To use it, you just need to cut off a single leaf, leaving the remaining plant to regenerate.

Even better, a healthy aloe plant will propagate its own smaller aloes, which you can separate from the parent plant and re-pot into another vessel. In a few short months, you may have more aloe plants than you know what to do with. These small plants make for a great (and free!) appreciation gift for employees.

It can be easy to over-water aloe. Depending on your climate and humidity, you may need to water an aloe plant as infrequently as once a month. If you feel the top two inches of the soil and they’re still moist, it’s too early to re-water.

The Health Benefits of Aloe

Before you procure an aloe plant, you may have a few questions. What are the benefits of aloe?

Air cleaning

Aloe has the ability to clear the air of harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and other substances found in carpet, cleaning products, and other chemical-laden office items.

Burns

Whether it’s sunburn leftover from a long weekend, or a kitchen burn from the office kitchen, growing your own aloe plant means you will not need to purchase aloe gel from the store to treat burns. Cutting open or squeezing a leaf of the plan expels aloe gel, which can be applied directly to the burn for relief.

Insect repellent

A natural and harmless alternative to DEET and other chemical-based repellents, aloe applied to the skin has the capacity to keep mosquitoes and other pests at bay. The gel creates a moist barrier that repels insects naturally, without chemicals that may cause other health issues and harm the environment. During the summer, keeping an aloe plant on your deck or balcony is the perfect way to have side effect-free repellent at the ready anytime you’re enjoying an outdoor space.

Health Benefits of Aloe at Home

Because aloe propagates dozens of smaller plants in the pot, you may find yourself giving away these smaller plants to employees. At home, aloe has many healing benefits as well:

Psoriasis

Dry skin is a persistent, embarrassing condition. It can also be frustratingly difficult to treat. The soothing properties of aloe gel have been used to treat psoriasis, eczema, and other dry skin conditions. Aloe may be considerably cheaper than expensive creams or prescription lotions, and it can also be used in conjunction with other treatments.

Acne

From soaps to lotions to astringents, acne is a condition that can cost you tons of money. There are dozens–or perhaps even hundreds–of acne treatments on the market. It makes sense that you would want to use a treatment that is gentle and holistic since acne most often occurs on the face. Aloe can be used in concert with your other acne treatments to reduce scarring, moisturize skin, and prevent future breakouts.

Dandruff

Instead of buying expensive shampoos, apply aloe after showering to moisturize and calm your itchy scalp naturally. For many people, dandruff is persistent and reoccurs periodically even after you’ve treated it. Treating your scalp with aloe a few times a week can not only take care of the problem, but it can also save you from having to buy expensive, specialized dandruff shampoos.

Aloe has tons of uses, but make sure to consult your doctor before beginning any treatment. It’s important that you monitor your use of any treatment, even if it’s a natural one.

Portrait of confident young businesswoman sitting at desk in office. Productivity at work - Horizontal shot.

5 Tips to Improve Productivity at Work

Productivity in the workplace gives a boost to the entire office. Not only does it enhance the work environment, it also provides increased employees morale. However, with all the demands of a hectic workplace, finding ways to streamline your workload can prove challenging. Here are 5 proven practices for improving productivity at work and effective work patterns at the office.

Eliminate multitasking

At first glance, this may seem like a contradictory statement. You may think by multitasking you will get more done, but according to an article in the Small Business Chronicle, multitasking actually hinders your productivity in two ways:

1) You cannot fully concentrate on the task at hand because you are trying to juggle more than one thing. So, you end up not really getting anything done that well.

2) Multi-tasking stresses you out, which gets in the way of your concentration.

Stay fit

If you make exercise a regular part of your routine, you are going to be more productive on the job. Harvard Business Review states that people who exercise regularly have improved concentration, better memory, mental endurance, heightened creativity, and quicker learning of new material. These are all necessary attributes of an effective employee. Exercise is not only good for the body but for the mind, as well. You can even add exercise into your workday by doing some power walks on your breaks. The burst of energy you’ll gain will give you greater returns at the desk.

Take time to plan

You probably have a schedule of appointments, meetings, or deadlines when projects need to be done, but if you take time to plan out your day more completely, you’ll get much more accomplished. In fact, this article explains how planning the night before is guaranteed to dramatically increase your productivity. If you go to work and simply begin tackling the mountain of tasks before you, you may not make as much headway than if you have a prioritized plan. The reason for this is that you’ll need to spend time thinking about what to do first, second, and next. It can be overwhelming when you don’t have a clear plan of attack. To get the most done in your workday, prioritize your tasks and then list out which ones you can reasonably accomplish for that day.

Rule your email

Your inbox can start to get a bit unruly if you’re not proactive in controlling it. That means you’ll need to rule over it instead of letting it rule you. Some people tend to check their email whenever they hear one come in. Then there’s a tendency to reply to the email and you lose your whole train of thought on whatever project you were working on. To combat this time waster, here are a few tips:

  • Turn off notifications for emails so that they don’t interrupt you.
  • Check your emails on a schedule. Plan to check them a few times a day.
  • When you take the time to check your emails, eliminate as many of them as you can by responding to those that just need a quick answer.
  • For emails that require more thought and/or an attachment or link, plan a time and/or day (depending on how many of these kinds you typically get) to answer.
  • Remove yourself from all mailing subscriptions that you don’t need. They will take up your time even if you are just deleting them right away.

Have a plan for distractions

Distractions are bound to happen even when we have the best intentions. It may be the chatty co-worker or racing thoughts. Maybe it’s something going on outside your large office window that is pulling your attention away from work. Whatever it is, finding a solution to overcome distractions will improve productivity. Here are a few tips to help you block out distractions.

  • If you have a window, use blinds or curtains to block out distractions.
  • Use earplugs for focus time if noise is a problem for you.
  • Learn some nonverbal cues if you have a co-worker who tends to talk too much (or you may have to just “shut it down”).
  • Keep your desk neat as that can be a distraction for many people.
  • Put your phone out of sight (many workplaces don’t allow phone use during work hours anyway).

Productivity is about being proactive. If you don’t take control and implement a plan, chances are that distractions will soon overtake your workspace. However, with careful forethought, you can get the most productivity out of your time at work.

Happy productive woman in an office with biophilic design plants. Improve office life concept

Improve Office Life Through Conceptual Design, Live Elements, and Concessions

Employees spend many of their waking hours at work. The office is like a home away from home, so it is important that employees feel like they are at home while they are there. If you have ever worked in a building that boasts furniture representative of a 1980s sitcom or has decor that is discolored, worn, and tattered, then you know it can lower the morale in the office and make people less productive. When employees are proud of their workspace, they are often times more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, which translates into better productivity all around. Improve office life, motivate your employees and give them a workspace that feels more like a home with these office life altering tricks and techniques:

Update Office Furnishings

Whether your company is large or small, office facelift funds should be worked into every business budget. Presentation is an important part of the package when you are trying to generate new business and keep your current customers coming back for more. A well kept office space conveys professionalism. Employees and clients alike will feel more comfortable negotiating new deals, coming up with the next big concept, and seeing projects through to completion when they have a clean and contemporary space to work in.

The overall image of your company should be conveyed in the furnishings you select for your office space. If you wish to portray a laid-back atmosphere that fosters creativity and allows your employees to think and work freely, go with bold colors and furniture with interesting patterns and shapes. If your business is designed around helping others, choose natural earth tones and portray a look of warmth and compassion.

Get On-Board with Biophilia

Biophilia is a psychological concept that was first used in 1973 by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm who said that humans have an innate need to connect with the natural world around them, and are attracted to things that are considered to be alive and from nature.

It is a concept that is being incorporated more in shopping malls, office buildings, and other public spaces as nature calms the spirit. To engage employees and make them feel more relaxed in the workplace, incorporate landscape art, live plants, natural colors, fish tanks, water fountains, and other earthy elements.

The Little Things Do Matter

Providing simple concessions like a coffee pot and healthy snacks in the break room are little things that matter a great deal to employees. Small gestures of appreciation show employees you care and will help keep them feeling comfortable while they are at work. According to The Balance Small Business, businesses that provide free snacks and drinks to employees are the ones most likely to get the best employees in the job market.

Other gestures of appreciation you can consider to improve life in the office include giving employees gift cards to their favorite retailers for a job well done, providing a relaxing break area that includes comfortable seating, games, a TV, and some live plants for them to look after, and pumping soothing music through the airwaves to promote deep thought and reflection.

Knock Down the Walls

Open office concepts are in and promote conversation and idea sharing in the workplace. An open office concept invites employees to discuss projects and form partnerships among themselves as well as makes their supervisors more accessible to them. When the walls are knocked down, even a small office suite can take on a vast and expansive new life, letting in much more natural light for everyone to enjoy.

When designing your open office concept, remember to keep the cubicles low and try to incorporate more windows and skylights into the construction plans. If your office building needs to have individual offices for key executives to work from, position the offices so that they are in the middle of the building, allowing for lower level employees to have access to prime window seating.

In today’s job market, employees have choices when it comes to where they work, and sometimes the tipping point all comes down to the physical appearance and ambiance of the office space you provide. Give your office a facelift, let nature in, and provide employees with a few small gifts of gratitude, and you will enjoy seeing their smiling faces as they work hard to make the business boom.

Madagascar Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata tricolor). Perfect for office indoor plant

Cleaning the Air While Decorating with Indoor Plant Displays

Living indoor plant displays adds a touch of class to a busy office or a bit of warmth to an otherwise sterile waiting room.  Such a display is an element that stylishly ties your décor together. The right indoor plant combinations make a place look finished, ready and put-together while they are useful for cleaning the air. Easy-care, low maintenance Dracaena plants work perfectly in many such situations.

Why Dracaena?

Dracaena is an exceptional and exciting family of plants that exist happily with limited watering and little pruning. Give them a place where the sun provides a few rays or in bright indoor lighting and they flourish. Consider which dracaena plants work with your décor and indoor lighting conditions. This plant family has something for every office condition.

Dracaena thrives under incandescent or supplemental fluorescent lighting if the ideal lighting situation is not available. Temperatures between 65-80 degrees F., those found in most businesses, are perfect for them. There is a variety of beautiful Dracaena from which to choose. Many have a tree form, taking center stage in a grouping near a window or accenting a corner.

We can even add a wall-hanging featuring this air-cleaning specimen. Include them on a table, wall shelf, in container arrangements, or plant a tropical themed garden outside. Our innovative biophilic designs beautify your space as only nature can do.

Improve Work Performance

Employees find a subtle encouragement in working in such an environment. Processes seem to flow more smoothly; interactions are more meaningful and less problematic. Sources say interacting with nature eases stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves one’s frame of mind. The benefits of cleaner air are endless and immeasurable.

Sources suggest that a 10-inch potted plant for each 100 sq ft of your business effectively purifies the air. We do the measurements and calculations to bring your office up to a standard when installing these plants. A few of the most popular Dracaena are listed below:

  • Dracaena marginata Dragon Tree
  • Dracaena fragrans Corn Plant
  • Dracaena Braunii Lucky Bamboo
  • Dracaena Reflexa Song of India
  • Dracaena deremensis Janet Craig

Consider these attractive plants as they can be arranged in your workspace. Don’t forget the positive benefits of this type of upgrade. Happier, healthier, and more productive employees is an achievable goal. Anything to make work roll along smoothly. And looking up the line, this makes work easier to manage for higher level employees.

 Who’s Trying the Indoor Plant Concept?

Giant corporations Google and Microsoft have taken advantage of this new movement to encourage their employees as they include green spaces in their indoor landscapes, according to NBC News. Not to be left behind, Amazon has jumped on the biophilic bandwagon with new domes in Seattle, called the Spheres. The three glass and steel domes house a proverbial forest of more than 40,000 plants. And, Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA features a nine-acre rooftop park, while Microsoft uses treehouses to allow employees to work outside. Apple has a 30-acre park, orchard, and pond for its workers to satisfy their outdoor urge.

You may rely on our experienced team of biophilic designers for a complimentary assessment and to explain the advantages in detail. Our designer meets at your convenience and can advise how to fit the Dracaena family into your offices. Rest assured, our design will work perfectly with your existing space and design.

Perhaps you will choose plant material other than the Dracaena. We offer a wide range of air-cleaning plant choices, something that is compatible with any design. From the front office to the outdoor break room and even the roof, we’ve got you covered.

Tokyo, Japan-October 25, 2013: The Hasegawa Green Biophilic Buildings is a good example of how the Japanese ecological architecture marks trends worldwide and is followed by many architects as modern inspiration.

The 5 Best Biophilic Buildings in Asia

First popularized by Edward O. Wilson in 1984, Biophilic design has grown to become one of modern architecture’s hottest trends. Focused on creating sustainable relationships between humans and natural elements, Biophilic design reaches beyond artificial man-made structures.

Architect Dwayne MacEwen, Principal of DMAC Architecture, best describes the emerging trend when comparing architecture to music:

“The space between the notes is where the magic is; otherwise, it’s just noise. We need that space between the notes in our everyday lives, and I think landscape elements create that.”

All around the world, architects are using Biophilic design to create, renovate and transform buildings into unique spaces and nurturing habitats. Asia in particular is stepping forward as a leader in Biophilic architecture, in a bid to address its congested cities, swelling population, global competitors, and large workforce. The below 5 biophilic buildings are some of the best examples of Biophilic design in Asia:

1. Pasona Group Offices, Japan

Designed by Kono Designs, this urban office in Tokyo, Japan has its own indoor farm. Completed in 2010, Pasona Group encourages its employees to cultivate and grow their own food. The agro-based philosophy uses both hydroponic and soil-based farming. When walking through the workspace, it is common to see personalized agricultural projects by employees. Some examples include bean sprouts growing under tables, passion fruit trees in conference rooms, and lemon trees in common areas.

2. Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Singapore

Touted as the most Biophilic hospital in Asia, the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore is a pioneer in healthcare infrastructure. The heart of this institution’s holistic environment is the green court. Imitating a lush forest, the green court includes water bodies with aquatic animals, brightly colored plants, as well as resident birds and butterflies. The blue and green spaces expand to the upper levels of the hospital as well as the basement. In fact, the total surface area dedicated to greenery is four times the actual land the hospital building sits on.

3. Panyaden School, Thailand

Drawing on its Buddhist founding principles, the Panyaden School in the Chiang Mai province of Thailand, is constructed entirely from earth and bamboo. The building is designed in the shape of a lotus, a flower which is regarded both as a symbol of Thailand and Buddhism. The most outstanding feature of this school is the sports hall. Covering an area of 782 square meters, the hall can accommodate up to 300 students, with bamboo staircases leading to viewing balconies for the spectators. It hosts sports like basketball, badminton and volleyball, as well as conducts events throughout the year. The bamboo trusses use natural ventilation and insulation to keep the sports hall consistently cool. In addition, they can withstand storms, high-speed winds, and earthquakes.

4. Keputih Boarding House, Indonesia

Located in Surabaya, the Keputih Boarding House was a finalist in the World Architecture Festival 2016 in Berlin, Germany. The boarding house is a world apart from the cramped conditions of its peers. While it is common to employ air-conditioning to escape Indonesia’s heat, the boarding house uses perforated panels for walls as well as spatial openings. The openings and panels allow natural lighting and air to circulate the main spaces, giving a sense that the house is “breathing”. Residents interact in the several communal places, the walls of which are decorated with stunning typographical prints. In addition, residents and visitors are provided with a parking space for their bicycles to stimulate both eco-consciousness and exercise.

5. An’garden Café, Vietnam

Located in Hanoi’s Hà Đông district on a former industrial site, the An’garden Café exudes vibrancy and oxygen throughout its three-story space. The eatery’s steel foundation and brick interiors incorporate a giant glass facade that floods the entire space with light. The timber roof is lined with planters with vines flowing out of them. Visitors can watch colorful koi fish swimming in a pond, or relax under the shady trees. The architectural firm Le House designed this cafe in the image of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And it doesn’t fail to impress.

Latina businesswoman working at computer at office desk with potted plants - Biophilic design concept

How to Bring Biophilic Elements into Your Workspace

The importance of Biophilia in urban spaces is growing. The Biophilic Design Movement is in the process of transitioning from a hot architectural trend to an absolute structural component. As stated by Timothy Beatley, author of Biophilic Cities,

“Nature is not optional; it’s absolutely essential. It’s something that should be part of every day, every hour, if not every minute of people’s lives, not something you just get when you’re on vacation.”

Statistics show that there are significant advantages to incorporating Biophilic materials when designing infrastructure.

  • In corporate sectors, biophilic projects led to an 8 percent rise in productivity, as well as a 13 percent increase in employee well-being.
  • In schools, the rate of learning in students rose by 20 to 25 percent.
  • Customers are willing to pay 8 to 12 percent more on goods and services if retail stores introduced Biophilic elements such as plants.
  • In the hospitality sector, guests prefer rooms with natural views and are willing to pay 23 percent more for it.
  • In the field of medicine, the recovery period for patients after an operation decreased by 8.5 percent, while the requests for pain medication dropped by 22 percent.

In order to transition your workplace into a nurturing and productive environment, you have to understand the basic features of the Biophilic design. While not all businesses can afford expensive makeovers and chic architectural projects, there are a number of simple ways in which Biophilic design can be implemented.

1. Views of Nature

When offered a choice, passengers prefer to seat at a window seat on a plane. Naturally, having a desk near a window allows employees to look outside. Workers tend to get less anxious and stressed when they have visual access to natural flora. Whether it is open skies or the falling leaves of autumn, nature has a calming effect on employees.

Example: Million Trees NYC completed planting 1 million new trees across New York City’s five boroughs. The concept of an urban forest was created to provide both ecological and health benefits to the inhabitants of the city. Everyone, from commuters to employees, can now look out and inhale a fresh breath of oxygen.

2. Pictures of Nature

Not everyone is fortunate to work in an environment which has access to natural greenery. In this case, setting up even nonliving depictions of nature can have a positive effect on employees. Stunning artwork comprising of variegated landforms, wildlife, water bodies and colorful flora not only brightens up the office decor but is also a proven mood-enhancer. After all, who doesn’t love a canvas print of a sunrise?

Example: One of the biggest advocates of marine conservation, artist Robert Wyland has transformed concrete facades into large-scale murals of dolphins and whales. He has worked on the sides of skyscrapers, sports stadiums, and others in 18 countries. Some of his famous works include Whaling Walls in Oahu and Hands Across the Oceans in Beijing.

3. Corporate Gardening 

A simple way of incorporating Biophilic design is to bring plants into the workspace. Displaying succulents or flowering plants can brighten up any corner of the office. If your building has an open terrace or patio, consider planting some greenery. Gardening is known to be a great form of relaxation and helps alleviate work-related stress, depression, and anxiety.

Example: The Boston Medical Center (BMC) has set up a farm on its 7,000 square foot rooftop. During the growing season, the farm yields up to 15,000 pounds of produce which is used to stock the BMC’s food pantry. Not only does the rooftop farm help feed the patients, but it has been a source of enthusiasm for BMC employees who regularly volunteer for gardening hours.

4. Natural Light

Sunlight has many proven health benefits. It is a natural source of vitamin D. In addition, sunlight helps maintain levels of serotonin and melatonin, two hormones which are key for mood and sleep regulation. Employees who work solely under interior lighting tend to be less productive, as well as fall sick more often than their peers who have access to natural light. Propping up a window or installing skylights can go a long way in keeping your employees healthy.

Example: The Crozer-Chester Medical Center found an innovative way to bring in natural light into its interiors. The building features a dome skylight that measures 40 feet in diameter. Coated in silver color with a 70 percent PVDF mica coating, the skylight not only fills the place with sunlight but also creates an illusion of expansive space.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI / USA - OCTOBER 15, 2017: The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, shown here, has hosted over ten million visitors.

Five Incredible Living Art Installations That Combine Beauty and Purpose

Artists, designers and environmental visionaries have all been known to use plants as functional, beautiful pieces of art. As more people become aware of biophilia, the beneficial relationship between humans and plants, there’s an increasing awareness of and appreciation for these amazing installations. Here are five fascinating “living art” destinations across America and Canada.

University of New England’s “Breathing Wall”

At the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, students enjoy walking by and gazing upon a magnificent living wall that measures over 400 square feet and contains more than 960 plants. This thriving living art not only helps to purify the air but also provides a calming, stress-reducing focal point. Nicknamed the “Breathing Wall”, the installation features five different varieties of tropical shrubs and is enjoyed by teachers, professors and visitors alike.

Chicago’s Rooftop Wheat Prairie

Rooftop gardens usually feature small trees, flowers, or even vegetables. But one Chicago architecture and urban design firm took rooftop gardening to a new level: Studio Gang worked with a team of local designers to install and maintain an entire wheat field on their rooftop. The massive project, covering almost 5,000 square feet, featured winter wheat, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. This mini-prairie became a thriving ecosystem that successfully produced a staple crop: students and volunteers harvested more than 60 pounds of wheat, and the grain was taken to a local mill where it was ground into high-grade pastry flour. This rooftop green space is not just functional, but beautiful, too. Known as “The Treehouse”, the rooftop is also one of Chicago’s most popular event spaces.

Eco-sculptures of Burnaby

Every summer in British Columbia, residents of Burnaby are treated to the sight of ‘eco-sculptures‘, a living art fusion composed of metal framework, soil, and plants. The sculptures are placed around the city in public parks and other community areas, and they represent animals from the local area and around the world. Horses prance at Deer Lake Park and bears lumber at the base of Burnaby Mountain. Locals love their signature sculptures, and they play an active role in building them. Horticulturists and designers create the metal structures that form the basis for each sculpture, and then stuff them with soil and cover them with landscape fabric. Then, everyone pitches in to insert various plants according to the artist’s directions. The result is a beautifully growing piece of living art. The

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

This 158-acre botanical garden located in Madison, Wisconsin, features themed indoor and outdoor gardens, a tropical conservatory, sculpture gardens… and an incredibly large and diverse collection of carnivorous plants! The Kenneth E. Nelson Carnivorous Plant House features the ever-popular Venus Flytraps, along with pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts and other meat-eating plants from around the world. While eating lunch or sipping coffee, visitors can also enjoy a living plant wall in the garden cafe. The vertical structure was recently installed in 2017 and continues to delight guests today.

A Giant Living Bouquet in New York City

Imagine driving the bustling streets of New York, and then coming face to face with a 40-foot long, eight-foot-tall giant flowering bouquet! That’s exactly what New Yorkers saw this spring thanks to the “Broadway Bouquet” installation created by a local landscape design firm. Instead of the ubiquitous cut flowers that make up a typical bouquet, this living bouquet was composed of small trees and flowering shrubs. The temporary bouquet was created as part of the NYC/DOT Car Free Earth Day event on April 21 and illustrated the boundless possibilities of living space that would normally be taken up by a stream of traffic and cars.

These magnificent gardens, living art installations, and thriving sculptures are just a few examples of biophilia at work. Whether you live nearby or are just passing through, make sure to visit and experience these wonders for yourself.

Row of living walls behind statue of man sitting

Cityscapes Wins 3 International Design Awards for Plantscaping

Milan, Italy - June 05, 2016: Pair of residential towers with trees called Bosco Verticale in the Porta Nuova district designed by Boeri Studio

Famous Biophilic Designs of Europe

Biophilic design still carries the assumption of a quirky or artistic architectural experiment. But growing scientific evidence clearly states the various benefits of incorporating biophilic elements, proving that this trend of today will soon become the norm of tomorrow. As described by Executive Producer Stephen Kellert from the movie “Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life”:

“Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature.”

The best place to appreciate biophilic design is in Europe’s architectural landscape, where natural elements can be found even in ancient structures built centuries ago. In addition, with growing consciousness concerning the environment, holistic living and employee rights, significant building regulations have been set in place. Keeping that in mind, modern architects are designing some of the finest examples of biophilic buildings, each project displaying unique workmanship and exquisite beauty.

1. Selgas Cano, Spain

Located in Madrid, the Spanish architecture firm Selgas Cano designed its office in the form of an aerodynamic tube, encompassing its employees with magnificent views of the beautiful forest around them.

The curving fiberglass glass wall gives the building a streamlined look and allows for natural light to enter the space. Desks lined along the wall allow employees to be level with the forest floor, while spherical lanterns light up workspaces at night. Half of the structure is submerged in the earth, which creates a natural system of insulation. This comes in handy especially during the hot summers, when the building keeps cool with no need for air conditioning.

2. Tree House Hotel, Sweden

The Tree House Hotel, also known as the Mirror Cube, is a series of tree hotels providing a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. Located close to the village of Harads, the hotel is unique for its proximity to the Arctic Circle. The brainchild of designers Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, the structure is a 4 X 4 X 4 lightweight design made of aluminum and mirrored glass. Hanging from a tree trunk, the hotel is accessed via a rope bridge connected to the next tree.

The entire structure is camouflaged by the exterior facade which reflects the surrounding forest canopy. In addition, the glass panes are laminated with a certain bandwidth of ultraviolet color. This prevents birds from colliding with the glass. The interior is made of plywood and can accommodate two guests.

3. Bosco Verticale, Italy

One of the most ambitious biophilic projects in Europe can be found in Milan. Meaning “Vertical Forest”, Bosco Verticale is an impressive solution by Italian architect Stefano Boeri to tackle the city’s air pollution. According to statistics, Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Europe.

Residential high-rises host a diverse range of flora including shrubs, small plants, and large trees. For example, the Porta Nuova Isola district has over 500 medium and large trees, 300 small trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 plants. These plants have the ability to convert 44,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into oxygen on an annual basis. The trees also act a screen for dust particles, a noise filter, as well as a natural coolant. Aerial arborists regularly groom the vegetation, as well as examine the trees to ensure they are secure at heights of 400 feet high.

4. Bayerischer Hof Hotel, Germany

Designed by Jouin Manku Studio, the Bayerischer Hof Hotel in Munich exudes sophistication and class. The use of natural elements, forms, textures, and colors ensures that the hotel serves as a retreat for guests. One major highlight of the hotel is its lounge.

While soft green textures make up the walls, the flooring of the lounge is a smooth alternation between textures like carpeting, stone, and wood. The booths in the restaurant feature backlit panels carved to imitate the mountainous terrain of the Bavarian countryside. The huge floor to ceiling windows allows plenty of natural light to fill the lounge space. Guests can recline back on the wood crafted and leather bound furniture while enjoying the robust curvaceous fireplace. In addition, the terrace provides breathtaking views of the city and the mountains.

5. Juvet Landscape Hotel, Norway

Juvet Landscape Hotel is Europe’s first landscape hotel. Blending elements of Norwegian culture, history and contemporary architecture, the hotel is a product of traditional building ideas and craftsmanship.

Located in Burtigarden farm at Alstad in rural Norway, the hotel consists of nine rooms situated on separate sites. Seven of the rooms are landscape rooms, and are essentially “cubes” on stilts, with glass walls that provide stunning views of the valley and gorge. While the rooms feature dark interiors to avoid detracting from the scenery, the bathroom receives sunlight even in the heart of winter. Guests can also enjoy the on-site spa designed to mimic a cave with flowing water, as well as communal meals at the restored farmhouse.

Coworkers eating healthy

Workplace Wellness Programs and Employee Productivity

Recent market data show that corporate wellness programs in the U.S. are an $8 billion industry. With a projected growth rate of 7.8 percent through 2021, the industry doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Rising number of competitors, increasing technological advancements, and spiraling healthcare costs are driving companies to actively invest in the well-being of their employees. Some of the top health concerns that employers wish to address include work-related stress, depression, on-site injuries and non-communicable diseases.

Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that:

  • Every year, employee absenteeism amounts to $225.8 billion in costs.
  • The top four ailments among employees are high blood pressure, chest pain, diabetes and heart attack.
  • 38 percent of the U.S. working population has no paid sick leave.
  • Employees working while they are sick account for two-thirds of all corporate health costs.

The United States has one of the longest working hours in the developed world. In fact, Americans work 200 additional hours every year. With rising market pressure and corporate costs, companies are introducing innovative workplace wellness programs for their employees. Each program has its own rewards and addresses core employee issues.

1. Harnessing Technology for Wellness Programs

UnitedHealthcare recently conducted a study “Wellness Checkup” which interviewed 609 full-time employees across the United States. 60 percent of respondents who had access to a workplace wellness program stated that the corporate initiatives had a positive impact on their health. The study also found that 25 percent of the employees owned a fitness tracker. By tapping into this trend, many companies are syncing wearables with employee health targets.

Example: Indiana University Health introduced the Fitbit Challenge to its employees. At the conclusion of the three-month step challenge, 40 percent of the 4,000 participants experienced a decrease in their Body Mass Index (BMI), while 67 percent reported greater stress management and healthier eating habits.

2. Promoting Healthy Eating Habits

In the U.S., the average full-time employee eats one in four meals during work hours. Owing to the fast-paced nature of corporate culture, the majority of workers will consume foods that are high in saturated fats, refined sugar, and sodium. On the contrary, food prepared at home tends to be packed with nutrition. But as Americans cook less and eat out more, the country’s obesity epidemic continues to balloon. Thus, companies that invest in actively promoting healthy eating habits experience greater employee output and less absenteeism.

Example: The mega-feeder Sodexo has joined the Meatless Monday campaign in an effort to promote vegetarian dietary options throughout its corporate, healthcare and college centers across the United States. That amounts to 10 million people every day. By committing to plant-rich meals at the start of the work week, Sodexo is providing its employees with diverse and nutritious plant proteins like quinoa, lentil, and tofu.

3. Smoking Cessation Programs

It is common knowledge that workers who smoke create more costs for their employers. According to a 2013 study by Ohio State University, employees who smoked cost their companies $5,800 on an average every year. Costs can aggregate from factors like smoke breaks, excessive absenteeism and nicotine addiction. As a result, many companies have started to offer smoking cessation programs, both on moral and financial grounds.

Example: The Union Pacific Railroad provides a smoking cessation program for its employees, that includes lifestyle coaching, moral support and pharmacological assistance. Between the 1990s to 2007, the number of workers who smoked dropped from 40 percent to a mere 17 percent.

Workplace wellness programs have repeatedly demonstrated their positive impact on employee productivity and corporate healthcare costs. Investing in them is a smart move in terms of long-term benefits. As summarized by Soeren Mattke, lead author of the 2013 Rand Report, one of the most comprehensive analyses of wellness programs,

“We find that workplace wellness programs can help contain the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases, the main driver of premature morbidity and mortality as well as health care cost in the United States.”

People at gym

Simple Ways to Increase Productivity By Keeping Employees Happy

Have you ever had a job where you arrive to work each day and had to force yourself to walk through the front doors? Chances are you have employees who feel the same way from time to time. It’s important to strive to make your workplace a place people want to work. When employees are engaged and feel like the company cares about their needs, the result is higher productivity rates and less employee turnover. Happy employees increase productivity. There are several things that those in leadership roles can do to make the workplace more enjoyable for employees.

Make the Workplace Feel Like a Home

While keeping the company image and safety in mind, allow employees to make their workspaces feel more like a home. Full-time employees spend most of their waking hours during the week at work. It is important that they feel at home while doing their jobs. Being comfortable increases mental focus, and the result is better productivity. Encourage employees to decorate their offices and cubicles with workplace appropriate artwork, trinkets from home, plants, candy dishes, and other items that personalize their space.

Implement Kaizen Events to Increase Productivity

Kaizen Event is a 5-day program that is aimed at reducing time waste and increasing productivity in the workplace. These events are led by a facilitator. They provide employees with the opportunity to be part of the solution in developing workflow processes that are efficient. Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement” and involves a 5-step process:

  1. Sort: The first step of the Kaizen process is to get rid of the junk. Consider this the spring cleaning phase of the event. Your team cleans out closets, desks, storage rooms, and other areas of the workplace.
  2. Set in Order: This is the organization phase where your team will create a permanent home for all supplies and equipment so they will always know where to look for things they need in the future.
  3. Shine: Employees spend this day cleaning and sanitizing the workplace. A clean work environment enhances workplace morale almost instantly.
  4. Standardize: In this step, employees and their supervisors devise ways to standardize work processes with the goal of increasing productivity, reducing time waste, and creating more efficient practices.
  5. Sustain: While going about their day-to-day activities, employees will be encouraged to maintain the new work practices and organization techniques they learned during the event.

Kaizen events increase productivity and give employee morale a boost because employees get to be part of the solution and design workflow processes that work well for them.

Relaxing Community Areas

Workplace stress caused by overwhelming workloads, tight deadlines, chaotic schedules, and demanding bosses leads to employees becoming disengaged from the work they are doing. When employees are not engaged, productivity suffers. Provide employees with a place where they can relax and unwind. They should be able to recharge to go back to their desk ready to tackle the next challenge.

  • Employee Lounge: Instead of setting up a few tables, chairs, a microwave, and a coffee pot in room and calling it an employee lunchroom, create a tranquil space for your employees to relax during their scheduled breaks. An employee lounge should include comfortable couches, a TV, reading materials, soothing artwork, and even some elements of nature like plants and flowers.
  • Community Garden: If your workplace includes an outdoor area or courtyard, provide basic supplies so that employees can work in a community garden together. Gardening is effective at reducing stress as it encourages creativity, focusing on the moment, and learning about the natural elements of the world.
  • Exercise Room: There is nothing like a good workout to make a person feel human again. An employee exercise room encourages health and well-being in the workplace. It also provides them with a place to blow off some steam after a hard day. Exercise rooms should include weight equipment, treadmills, a space for yoga, showers, and even exercise balls.

Employees are the heart and soul of any successful business. In order to increase productivity, they need to feel engaged and enjoy coming to work each day. Provide your employees with a better work environment and places they can alleviate stress. As a result, you will get to enjoy lower turnover rates and a better bottom line.

chiropractic care

Why Offer Chiropractic Care for your Employees

In recent years, large corporations are analyzing the benefits of employee wellness programs and onsite corporate clinics. According to a national workplace study by Mercer, 29 percent of companies with 5,000 or more employees offered an onsite clinic in 2014, a 24 percent increase in comparison to 2012 statistics. Data shows that many employers and organizations are investing substantial resources in employee health, the foremost of them being chiropractic care.

As explained by Larry Boress, Executive Director of the National Association of Worksite Health Centers (NAWHC),

“As employer-managed health care becomes more prevalent with onsite health and wellness centers, we are seeing a greater interest by employers in expanding the service line to include chiropractic care to address musculoskeletal conditions and reduce the use and cost of unnecessary opioids and surgeries.”

What is Chiropractic Care and How Popular is it?

Chiropractic care is a healthcare profession that centers around disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, as well as addresses the effects of these disorders on a patient’s general health.

Recent statistics show that:

  • There are more than 77,000 state licensed chiropractors across the United States. There are another 3,000 working in academic and management roles.
  • Chiropractors treat more than 35 million Americans every year.
  • Chiropractic care produced greater results than deep-tissue massage, yoga, pilates, prescription medication, and over-the-counter medication.
  • With regards to preferred healthcare practitioner for lower back pain, patients ranked chiropractors above physical therapists, specialist physicians, family medicine physicians, and internal medicine physicians. 

What Ailments does Chiropractic Care Treat?

U.S. adults spend $3.9 billion annually on visits to practitioners for chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation. The average patient visiting a chiropractor usually presents symptoms of:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Joint restrictions (subluxations)
  • Lower back pain
  • Leg pain (sciatica)
  • Repetitive strains
  • Sports injuries
  • Car accident injuries
  • Arthritic pain
  • Post-surgery rehabilitation

What Kind of Treatments does Chiropractic Care Offer Your Employees?

Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) use a broad range of diagnostic skills, such as therapeutic and rehabilitative exercise assessment, nutritional and dietary counseling, as well as patient lifestyle analysis. Treatments include heat and cold therapies, massage, electrical muscle stimulation, trigger point therapy, and ultrasound. Adjustment techniques are the primary form of treatment performed by a chiropractor. While doing an adjustment, a chiropractor swiftly applies pressure with the hand to reduce subluxation and restore movement. As gases are released from the joint, they make a painless “pop” sound. Patients feel relief from pain unless their surrounding muscles are in spasm, in which case alternative treatments such as assisted stretching and massage are administered before giving an adjustment. 

How do You and Your Employees Benefit from Chiropractic Care?

Onsite corporate clinics are continuously evolving to address the needs of employees. There are several benefits to offering chiropractic services for staff and workers.

1. Financial Benefits: According to the American Productivity Audit, severe headache, migraine, neck and lower back pain cause worker productivity loss by 4.6 hours a week, according to American Productivity Audit. Increasing number of research studies highlight the validity of chiropractic services and their drug-free approach to pain relief. Reports by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reveal that an integrated approach to healthcare that included chiropractic care reduced pharmaceutical costs by 51.8 percent and hospital admissions by 43 percent.

2. Clinical Benefits: For example, chiropractic care has been shown to have positive effects on pregnant women. During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes various physiological and endocrinological changes. A protruding abdomen, increased back curve, pelvic changes and postural adaptations can result in misaligned joints or spine. For example, an intrauterine constraint occurs when the pelvis is misaligned. This reduces the amount of space for the developing fetus. This also creates difficulties during a non-invasive delivery. Chiropractic care helps maintain a healthy pregnancy for your female employees by easing nausea, relieving back and neck pain, reducing the time of labor and delivery, as well as preventing a potential cesarean delivery.

3. Patient Satisfaction: In a study conducted by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 272 participants suffering from mechanical neck pain were divided into three groups. Group 1 received spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic. Alternatively, Group 2 took over- the- counter pain medications. Group 3 performed recommended exercises. After 12 weeks, 57 percent of group 1 and 48 percent of group 2 reported a 75 percent reduction in pain, as compared to 33 percent in Group 3.

Living Walls at Amazon Spheres in Seattle

Cityscapes Goes to Seattle and Visits some of the Biggest Corporate Headquarters in America

couple riding bikes on trail

Get Outdoors in the Greater Boston Area

Boston may be a metropolitan hub, but if you love to spend time in the great outdoors, there are plenty of local trails and green spaces where you can find your fix. Whether you prefer to pedal, row, or enjoy a leisurely stroll, you’ll reap the benefits of sunshine, fresh air, and improving your cardiovascular fitness. Here are a few of our favorite local places and ways to get outdoors and maintain your healthy lifestyle.

Row Down the Charles River

In the 60s, The Standells sang that they “loved that dirty water” of the Charles River. Nowadays, the river’s been cleaned up and the water has been known to sparkle on sunny days. Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the winding waters and rent a kayak to paddle down the length of the river. Paddle Boston offers kayak rentals, guided sunset tours of the Charles, paddling classes, and more. If you’re feeling daring, why not sign up for one of their Wednesday night races?

Kayaking is a fun way to build upper body and core strength. Maneuvering the paddle over and over makes for a strong back, chest, shoulders, and arms. This is not to mention better coordination and flexibility. It’s a low-impact exercise, so that means less stress on your joints. You’ll also be able to take in the iconic features of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, from the dome of MIT to the gold leaf that tops the State House.

Avid kayakers report that it’s also a good way to reduce stress as you watch the blue-green waters undulate around you under a wide blue sky. And if you join a kayaking club, it’s a way to make new friends as you paddle the waters together.

Get Outdoors and Hike in the Blue Hills

The Blue Hills Reservation is in Milton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. It offers trails for experienced and inexperienced hikers alike, so no matter who you are or what fitness level you’re at, you’ll find a trail here that suits you. No matter what trail you set on, you’re sure to find one that offers rewarding sights of the reservation’s marshlands, meadows, and rolling hills. You might find a stunning view of the city in the distance, or enjoy New England’s famous foliage on a wooded path.

Hiking can be as challenging or as easy as you want it to be, depending on the trail you choose and the pace you set. If you can walk, you can hike. Be sure to bring snacks, water, and wear comfortable sneakers or boots with good traction. Put one foot in front of the other and take the time to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of nature around you.

Hiking offers a slew of physical and mental benefits. It’s a weight-bearing exercise, so it builds strong bones and strong legs. It builds cardiovascular fitness, so it’ll lower your risks of heart disease and high blood pressure. Beyond that, the relative solitude of hiking offers a meditative experience. It gives your mind a break from the stressors of everyday life. Research shows that regular hiking can alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Reconnecting with nature works your body and rests your brain. This is a great reason to get outdoors.

Ride Down the Minuteman Bikeway

If wheels are more your style, it’s time to take yourself on a spin down the Minuteman Bikeway in North Cambridge. This rail trail starts just past Alewife Station on the Red Line. It travels 10 miles on an out-and-back path through Arlington, Lexington, and Bedford. It’s paved all the way and popular with runners, walkers, roller skaters, and cyclists alike. Along the way, you’ll pass Spy Pond, Arlington’s Great Meadows, and the Battle Green where the Battle of Lexington and Concord sparked the American Revolution. Keep an eye out and you might reward yourself with sightings of a hawk or songbird in the wooded sections.

What can cycling do for you? For starters, it’ll build stronger legs and lungs and improve your flexibility. Research suggests cycling can alleviate symptoms of knee pain and osteoarthritis, and balancing on two wheels means better coordination as well. When you take your bike out regularly, you’ll enjoy all the mental benefits of cycling as exercise, including higher-quality sleep, reduced stress, and a healthier brain.

These aren’t the only ways to enjoy the great outdoors around Boston. However, they’re a start. All three will lead you on the path towards becoming your best self, physically and mentally. Get outdoors and make the most of what the Boston area has to offer.

people holding plant

Biophilic Design: Connecting Employees and Nature

According to the United Nations World Cities Report, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban environments by the year 2030. That means 1 in 3 people will reside in cities with a population of at least half a million. As a result, architects, scientists, and organizations are working together. They are studying the dynamics of the human-nature connection. In addition, how this connection can be incorporated into the concrete jungle. The answer to this challenge is biophilic design.

As defined by the International Living Future Institute:

“Biophilic design is the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities.”

An analysis of the data collected by the Labor Department revealed that the average U.S. employee works 1,811.16 hours every year. An estimated 40 percent work more than 50 hours a week, while 20 percent work more than 60 hours per week. This means that employees spend a lot of time in the office. Maybe even more than they do so at home. As a result, companies are increasingly focusing on providing an office design that creates a holistic, productive and collaborative atmosphere for their employees.

In 2014, the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) Human Spaces Report analyzed the impact of biophilic design across eight countries. Recently, the second wave of data was collected on workers in 16 countries. Statistics on workers in office environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, reveal the following:

  • 85 percent of the workers surveyed were employed in an urban environment.
  • Workers who functioned in airy, well-lit and green spaces, reported 15 percent higher levels of well being as well as lower levels of stress than their counterparts.
  • Offices that incorporated biophilic elements increased their productivity by 6 percent.
  • Employees’ ability to think, innovate and perform creatively increased by 15 percent.

Some of the first organizations to jump on board the biophilic design philosophy are big weights such as Apple and Amazon. In doing so, they have helped make the movement mainstream through high profile successful projects.

The Spheres

Amazon’s new office in downtown Seattle features three glass and steel domes occupying a forest area of 40,000 plants. Known as the ‘Spheres’, the glass orbs have been an instant hit with employees. From the 4,000 square foot living wall to the 55 foot high treetops, Amazon has created its own unique urban workplace ecosystem.

Treehouses

As part of its outdoor districts in its Redmond campus, Microsoft has built three treehouses to empower its employees to work and interact in new ways. Created by renowned builder Pete Nelson, the treehouses feature unique details. This includes weatherproof benches, rustproof rocking chairs, charred wood walls, and skylights.

Apple Park

Compared to a UFO, Apple Park has aptly been nicknamed the ‘Spaceship’. One of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, this architectural wonder in Cupertino, California is fitted with solar panels and has its own on-site low carbon central plant. The landscaping includes more than 7,000 trees including indigenous plants of the Mojave Desert and apricot orchards.

While the majority cannot afford grand projects, there are some simple principles which can be easily incorporated into any workplace.

  • Increase accessibility to natural light and views of the outside to boost employee productivity.
  • Use outdoor spaces like roofs and balconies to create creative working spaces for employees.
  • Experiment with bright, vibrant colors like orange and blue.
  • Utilize natural textures like wood and stone that imitate the outdoors.
  • Bring in plants to increase oxygen levels, which in turn brings down mental fatigue.
  • Avoid congested, cramped spaces, and keep the office design open and airy.

In conclusion, biophilic design marks a revolution in office architecture. With scientific backing, it proves that architecture makes a difference in workplace health, employee productivity, project teamwork, and stress management. In the words of Amanda Sturgeon, biophilic design expert, and CEO of International Living Future Institute:

“What could we learn from what makes us love being outside and incorporate it into the design of our buildings?”