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  • Writer's pictureViktoria Gilanyi

10 WAYS TO CREATE A BIOPHILIC HOME OFFICE


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It’s been a year since many of us have been working from home. We might be experiencing mental fatigue caused by confinement and stress and not be as productive and motivated in our jobs as we used to be.


One good thing about working from home is that we have much more control over our environment than in our corporate offices. We have the power to create a workspace that fully supports our well-being in terms of cognitive performance, productivity, concentration, creativity and motivation. This goes a long way in helping us remain calm and relaxed.


I’ve already implied that our built spaces support our health and well-being when our innate tendency to reconnect with nature is fulfilled. Today, I’m sharing some considerations to follow for establishing a biophilic home office.


1. LAYOUT


A starting point for a functional and productive home office layout is finding the spot with the best access to natural light and orient your furniture towards it. Natural light is the key consideration as there are numerous benefits of exposure to natural light; it helps us maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, improves our working performance, productivity, working memory, environmental satisfaction, and induces positive moods.


If you have a window view of the natural world, consider positioning your desk so you can look outside. Seeing nature improves our mental attentiveness. Having a good view over a distance gives us perspective (prospect), releases the eyestrain from staring at a screen, contributes to reduced stress, boredom, irritation and fatigue and gives an overall sense of comfort. Seeing unpredictable patterns in nature such as cloud formations, branches swinging in the breeze or insect and bird movements could be a positive distraction that can eventually increase our attention and invite exploration.


When arranging your furniture, make sure that your desk is placed in such a way that your back is not facing the entrance when seated. Our comfort is supported when we feel safe and secure (refuge), and we have a good view of what is happening around us.


For overall comfort and functionality, allow 36" clearance for the chair when pushed back from the desk.


2. ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING


Artificial light plays a significant role in workspaces where there is very little or no adequate access to natural light. From a biophilic perspective, a successful lighting plan should mimic the attributes of natural light; it can be adjusted from cool and bright to warm and low and can spread efficiently in the space. This can be achieved by layering the light fixtures with different colour temperatures and intensities. Variety of colour temperature is established by using different types of bulbs; cooler light sources make us feel more energized and focused, while warmer light is good for creative thinking and relaxing. The light intensity can be controlled by installing dimmer switches. Using dimmable smart bulbs could be a convenient solution as both their intensity and temperature can be adjusted by using smart devices.

When it comes to functionality, have proper task lighting for all your activities. To avoid glare on your monitor screen, make sure that the overhead lighting is not over the computer area, and the light intensity difference between each lighting source in the room is not too extreme.


3. MATERIALS AND COLOURS


As a result of our inherent inclination to affiliate with nature, our receptors can distinguish between materials processed from real nature and those made out of synthetic alternatives. To create a stress-reducing workspace, try incorporating finishes, furniture and decor made of natural materials, such as wood, natural-fibre fabrics, rattan, stone or dried grass.

In terms of colours, it won’t be a surprise that our working capacity is enhanced when we are surrounded by a natural colour scheme where the colours (the hue and intensity) are distributed in proportion as they appear in nature. And while the natural colour scheme mostly consists of blues, greens and earth tones, the emotional reaction is triggered rather by the intensity of the colour rather than the hue itself. Bright colours are stimulating and energizing, while less intense colours are relaxing and calming. However, experimental research suggests that green might have a positive impact on creativity.


When creating a stimulating home office, the right proportion of the materials and colours is the key. Natural materials (especially wood) have a restorative effect but, as our workspace is intended to be rather stimulative, they should be used in moderate amounts.

4. FLOOR COVERINGS


As already mentioned, seeing natural materials, such as wood grain creates a calming effect. So hardwood floors are more preferable than vinyl floors or synthetic carpeting. To ensure thermal comfort which leads to better concentration, you could add a low pile area rug made of straw-like natural fibres, such as hemp, sisal and jute. These natural rugs will also help your desk chair move easily.



5. WINDOW COVERINGS


The benefits of natural light are undoubted. However, when it is too bright, it causes an unpleasant distribution of light in the space. To avoid this consider installing sheer drapes or shades that will limit the discomfort of glare and resulting eyestrain while still providing access to the daylight. Sheer drapes may also partially cover an unappealing outdoor view and decrease our irritation and mental fatigue.


Partially covered windows also create a sense of mystery that increases interest in gaining new information.


6. CHAIR


As our overall comfort has an impact on our cognitive performance, our primary consideration when choosing a chair is ergonomy. Ergonomic, high-back chairs not only support our healthy posture but create a sense of refuge that improves our concentration, perception of safety, reduces irritation and fatigue.


7. ORGANIZATION


People instinctively scan their environment. The things, we are surrounded by, call for our attention, and distracts us from the primary task. To increase your productivity, organize your desk and remove everything from your sight that is not necessary for performing your task. Consider using a modular system or boxes with solid sides that can be easily moved around and reconfigured later.


As video meetings became a new norm make sure that your meeting partners are not distracted by the clutter behind your back.


8. HOUSEPLANTS


Besides improving the air quality, green leafy plants with rounder shapes help us visually reconnect with nature and, in this way, reduces fatigue, enhances comfort, satisfaction and improves our mental attentiveness and performance.


9. NATURE IMITATING DECOR


If your space doesn’t allow for exposure to real nature, you can increase your mental performance by simulating the natural world. Incorporate artwork, a monitor screensaver or TV screen depicting scenes of nature. Avoid using decor with too many right angles and straight lines. Decorate with fabric patterns derived from natural forms (e.g. honeycomb-patterned rugs).



10. ENGAGING OTHER SENSES


Our satisfaction and well-being rely on a variety of sensory stimulation. That’s why engaging all our senses while working contributes to an overall better working capacity.

Good natural ventilation improves the air quality and ensures thermal variability resulting in better comfort and productivity. Opening up our windows and feeling a gentle breeze or hearing the songbirds, rain or rustling plant life reduces cognitive stress, improves our motivation and attention.

By opening up windows, we also get exposure to natural scents that play an important role in stress-reducing. If you live in an urbanized area, bring in flowers or use essential oils and organic candles to simulate the fragrances of nature. Studies show that different odours have different effects; the smell of lavender is proven to be relaxing, peppermint enhances memory and attentiveness, juniper creates a favourable impression after mental work. Be aware, however, that flowers, essential oils and candles release harmful volatile organic compounds affecting our indoor air quality, so use them in moderation.


 

Sources:

  • The Theory of Biophilic Design by Stephen R. Kellert

  • 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design by Terrapin Bright Green

  • Access to daylight and view in an office improves cognitive performance and satisfaction and reduces eyestrain: A controlled crossover study in ScienceDirect

  • Physiological effects in humans induced by the visual stimulation of room interiors with different wood quantities in Springer Open

  • Fish in a mall aquarium—An ethological investigation of biophilia in ScienceDirect

  • Smells of Nature Lower Physiological Stress in TheScientist

  • Influence of Fragrances on Human Psychophysiological Activity: With Special Reference to Human Electroencephalographic Response in NCBI

  • Biophilic Moodboards: Designing Interiors for All 5 Senses in DforDesign

 

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