While biophilic design elements such as positive indoor air quality, ventilation and access to daylight have all proven to benefit physical health, a recent Harvard study, sponsored by Canadian design and engineering firm Stantec, claims that incorporating natural elements indoors can also reduce stress and improve creativity and key cognitive functions, boosting critical business metrics.
“In a global world that has paused, the health and wellbeing of staff continues to be a priority,” said Heather Greene, senior associate and workplace leader at Stantec. “While some employees will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, this research challenges us to put employees first when designing for those returning to the workplace. Employee wellbeing is no longer a luxury—it needs to be the norm.”
The study, conducted through the Healthy Building Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and sponsored through Stantec’s Creativity & Innovation (C&I) program, measured blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and skin conductance level while cognitive tests were administered to measure participants’ reaction time and creativity.
Participants in the spaces with biophilic elements had consistently lower physiological stress indicators, as well as higher creativity scores. The results suggest that biophilic interventions can help reduce stress and improve creativity.
“By putting people first, we can tailor biophilic design to help employees reach their full potential,” said Greene. “Prioritizing health and wellness in design is critical to teams reaching their full potential and maintaining a high level of engagement.”
For more information on the study and how biophilic design principals can be used to communicate social distancing and other safety changes workplaces are making, read the accompanying blog post by Greene at stantec.com.