At the heart of Interface’s exciting, new, global collection, Urban Retreat, is biophilia, which literally means “love of life of living systems”. The term biophilia was first used to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.
And it’s easy to see how the appeal of nature has a positive influence on the design of buildings and domestic interiors, and how it can improve our day-to-day lives.
But how does it apply to the hard-nosed commercial world, where every innovation is expected to generate a financial return?
Surprisingly, biophilia is not only viable in today’s business environment – some would argue that it’s vital. In the white paper The Economics of Biophilia, environmental consultants Terrapin Bright Green show how biophilic design has real economic value. Much more than a luxury for employers who want to pamper their staff or show off their environmental credentials, it can actually improve profits.
Over the last 20 years, scientific studies have produced convincing evidence that integrating nature into the workplace can have a positive effect on productivity. And this doesn’t have to mean investing huge sums: simple, low-cost measures, such as installing plants, letting in more daylight or giving staff access to views of nature can have profound physical, mental and social benefits, reducing stress and increasing individuals’ energy and concentration levels.
Investing for maximum impact
Until recently, the financial effects of these benefits have been difficult to quantify, and not always immediately obvious. The traditional commercial aim to maximise efficiency and reduce costs has undervalued productivity. So, many companies have preferred to invest in technology or other capital equipment, where they can see a direct return, rather than in improving their employees’ workspace.
But Terrapin Bright Green’s paper points out that, across a variety of sectors, organisations spend, on average, 112 times more on salaries than on heating and lighting their workplaces. And their people costs are also significantly greater than their rents or mortgages. So the smartest economic investment is in employees, as even small improvements in their productivity can boost profits more dramatically than any savings in property costs.
Quantifying nature’s influence
The case for biophilia in business is strengthened further by our increased ability to measure productivity accurately. As well as direct measures – such as numbers of customers served, calls made and products sold – some indirect measures, when studied in detail, can help build a clear picture of staff productivity. These include illness and absenteeism, punctuality, and observing safety rules. When such measures are related to the effects of encouraging employees’ attraction towards – and need for – nature, they show significant gains, in which many business owners are becoming increasingly interested.
The obvious conclusion to draw from the research analysed by Terrapin Bright Green is that our connection with nature is essential to our ability to function, develop and succeed. Bringing biophilia into our workplaces is more of a ‘must-do’ than a ‘nice-to-do’, and can create long-lasting economic benefits.