Brice Bunner

Take a cue from biophilic design; freshen up your office with nature


Image ©: VerHalen Inc.Biophilic design is a fancy way of describing the creation of environments where natural elements are intentionally introduced. It aims to dissolve the barriers that typical construction methods create between us and nature. But what about the barrier of technology?

Even as you’re reading this blog, you’re doing something that goes against what we were designed to do as a species. So, as we dive further into technology—giving ourselves screens to carry around and even place on our wrists—it only makes sense to take some cues from biophilic design. Obviously, walking away from your screen and taking a nice stroll through a wooded glade would be the ideal, but in light of needing to get work done (or cat videos watched), here are some alternative ways to break the trance we’re in with technology.

But first: why do I need plants in my wall?

Biophilic design is primarily an architectural philosophy. So, while it does typically manifest in a large wall of plants, there are other reasons it warrants appreciation. Notably, this study from 2006 that linked stress to what kind of view employees had.

Plants, it seems, are good for the soul. And as we have moved from the country to the city and from home to office in a synthetic vehicle, the need to reconnect has never been stronger. Add to that virtual reality, and you see the fullest extent of this separation.

There are more reasons than we know that nature has such an effect on us. But as we are only a few decades into the computer-focused existence we’ve succumbed to, it is ever more important to seek out natural experiences. There are bound to be ramifications that stem from our devotion to these devices and having nature there to help us keep balance is just a smart idea.  

Nature will out, so give it room

There are three senses we need to let nature do its thing on in order to ensure our lives maintain some balance against the pull of digital: sight, smell, and touch. If these three senses can be given their time with the natural, your endurance for digital work will outpace those who aren’t as balanced.

  • Sight: these screens create an unnatural blue spectrum that, as it turns out, damages our eyes. Refreshing your peepers with some old-fashioned natural light—not manufactured “natural light,” mind you—will add years to your eyes’ health and even hours to the time you can spend soaking in pixelated RGB.
Solution: bring the natural light in. Change your screen to block blue light. Use the 20:20:20 rule when working. Take breaks to walk around outside. Read more print books.
  • Smell: the chemicals that go into keeping these devices from bursting into flames are extremely toxic and the ozone you smell in an office building isn’t what our bodies were meant to breathe. Nature knows what we need; plants are fantastic filters that continually pull harmful compounds from the air. But in place of a green wall, smaller changes can still help.
Solution: put strategic indoor plants near your workspace. Consider natural oils that trigger the right senses. Open windows whenever possible.  Work on a laptop outside, periodically.
  • Touch: Have you ever gotten chills when someone you care about brushes up against you? Our sense of touch is one of the most powerful senses that we take for granted. Running your fingers across bark or feeling a soft bed of moss can do wonders for our stress levels and for our imaginations. Hard plastic and glass screens, on the other hand, are not exactly thrilling to the fingertips.
Solution: use a river stone as your fidget spinner. Bring wood or bark in like with a wood chair or wood coasters. Create a cubicle moss garden. Run your fingers across foliage on your way into the office. Get flowers frequently.

Taking the “ick” out of tech

As we continue to move technology more and more into our lives, this need to make computing more “human” is gaining popularity. Hopefully, this article reminds you of the beauty that nature has for us—and to introduce that beauty into your daily digital lifestyle.

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