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  • Sharon Lomas

Biophilia: 5 simple ways to connect your work space to nature

biophilic design home office filled with plants desk under window

Working from home came as quite a shock to many people last year. Those not accustomed to it suddenly found themselves jostling with everyone else in the household for any table space they could find to work from. The dining/kitchen table, perched on the sofa or even the bed became make shift work zones.

18 months on we've all found ways to adjust (we've had no choice in that) but as winter approaches, with even more time indoors and the majority of people still working from home, now is a great time to connect your home work space to nature to increase wellbeing and productivity while you work.

I believe working from home presents a real opportunity to create our ideal work space. As individuals we all have different comfort levels, which you will know if you've ever worked in a large office and had a battle with colleagues over the intensity of the air con. Working from home means we can create a level of personalised comfort not always possible in a commercial office environment shared with others.

Using the principles of Biophilic Design, any work space can be improved with a few simple steps. Work spaces with added elements of nature can increase wellbeing by 15%, productivity by 6% and creativity by 15% (Human Spaces Report 2015).

Over the first lockdown I created my personal, biophilic work space with a few simple techniques

1. Desk Position

desik positioned under a window to maximise natural light while working

I placed my desk under a window. It's very important to me to feel connected to nature in my home (especially during winter) and I find a view out is vital to my wellbeing while I work. I enjoy being able to watch the seasons change, the weather roll in and to observe the birds in my garden. But it's not just all for aesthetics, studies have shown that a view out to nature can increase work performance by up to 25%.

A desk positioned under a window will maximise exposure to natural light which is especially important during the shorter days of winter. It can also help you maintain focus while working. Being under or close to a window also means easy access to fresh air which is key in creating a comfortable working temperature. An open window can bring fresh air in, let toxins out plus you can also hear the bird song and feel the breeze.

If you can't position your desk under or close to a window consider using a mirror to reflect a view which will help you feel connected to the outside world. If your window doesn't have a view of greenery try hanging a piece of nature inspired artwork or a favourite landscape view to connect you to nature. Plants on your desk are especially important if you don't have a view of greenery through your window too.

2. Plants

I am quite obsessed with house plants. Sharing any space with plants is beneficial for your health, so your work space should not be overlooked. Plants work very hard for us humans. They are known to boost productivity and reduce stress, they make your work space alive & engaging as well as improving your energy levels. Plants can produce cleaner air which aids clear thinking and helps prevent task fatigue.

I like plants to fill my space with plants and have several either side of my computer as well as ones hanging from the window frame. I am fortunate to have a large east facing window and a south facing glazed door in my study giving me lots of light. I use the top surface of my metal locker storage cabinets as a place to nurture young plants and propagate cuttings, further connecting me to natural processes while I work.

Plants also make a wonderful acoustic screen and are an excellent way to separate off an area of your home when defining a work area in a multi-functional room. An open shelving unit filled with plants can create a simple but effective way to define and zone your work space. Equally a simple line of tall potted plants such as bamboo, ficus, fiddle figs or philodendron not only look good as a room divider but can help with acoustics in open plan spaces.

My favourite office plants include: Peace Lily, Snake Plant, Monstera, Pothos, Spider Plant and Yucca.

3. Natural Materials

If you have the choice, always opt for a solid wood desk. Mine was a £35 old kitchen table found from Facebook Marketplace, so it don't have to be expensive option. Using real wood in our homes has been found to reduce blood pressure which is incredible, but also it adds a warmth and texture that will make your home working environment so much more comfortable.

I am lucky to have the original timber floorboards exposed in my study but for added warmth, colour and texture I do have a rug made from natural materials.

4. Time Out

I spend quite a lot of time sat at my desk. However as many of my daily work tasks include reading or note taking I have made a space for a small day bed to create a break out space and a little refuge from technology. This gives me an opportunity to take a break from sitting at my desk and staring at my screen for too long. It means I can perform certain tasks in more comfort and it helps break up my working day to have a space to retreat to.

I have decorated my space with paintings of flowers and tress, lots of plants, nature inspired colours and patterns on textiles. I also like to swap cushions from around the house to bring some seasonal colours in. It's not a big room so I can still enjoy the view through the window from a more comfortable spot.

If your spare bedroom has to function as a work space and a guest room, a few extra cushions and a throw added to the bed you already have will create a "day bed" look. They will visually help to redefine the space as part of your work area. It will then feel less like a spare bedroom with a desk plonked in it. Also try swapping out bedside drawers for a tray table for instance to make the work zone feel less bedroom like, yet still be a functional piece of furniture for guests to use.

Working from home means we can include more creature comforts into our working day and having the space to relax while working certainly helps me avoid too much task fatigue. I'm all up for that.

5. Fragrance

Fragrance is an important part of my life and one which helps my mental wellbeing. I use scent to help me stay focused for certain tasks and more relaxed for others. Using fragrance in a traditional office would be extremely tricky - unless of course everyone who shared your space also shared your taste in scent.

I use natural, essential oil, aromatherapy candles to help boost my mood while working, something you could just never do in an open office. I select energising fragrances when I know my task requires concentration such as Basil & Lime or Rosemary & Lemon -oils known to help boost mental clarity. Then warmer, woody or spicy fragrances when I'm working in the evenings when I want to feel a little more relaxed but still need to get a job finished.

Connecting all our senses to nature, including smell is a much overlooked design technique and one which really boosts our general wellbeing, especially while working.

Just a few simple techniques and ideas to help connect your work space to nature and bring an added boost to your wellbeing while working. Hope you found it useful.

Sharon x

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