Some businesses are finally welcoming employees back to a central location after months of quarantine. The problem? Employees don’t know if they feel safe coming back, and employers don’t know how to dispel their fears. This post-Covid-19 era is begging the question: How do we create spaces that cater to the emotional needs of employees? Of course, increased hand sanitation points, desks pulled further apart, and wider egress for mitigated person-to-person contact, but what about the psychological impact of returning to work?
The spaces that we inhabit have a physiological and psychological impact on us. Biophilic Design is a school of thought which stems from our innate need to interact with nature. It “focuses on bringing experiences of nature to us in the built environment; this can include living plants, water, daylight, natural material, fractal patterns, and spaces that support prospect views or provide a refuge” (The Impact and Benefits of Biophilia in the Workplace, 2018). Research has affirmed that a Biophilic Design can “reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance mood and creativity” (The Impact and Benefits of Biophilia in the Workplace, 2018). In this post-Covid time, the ability to help manage the health and well-being of employees will have a direct impact on productivity.
Figure 1. Modern office featuring Biophilic Design. ( Everything You Need to Know About Biophilic Design, April 24, 2019, SpaceRefinery.com, https://spacerefinery.com/everything-biophilic-design/).
Simple Changes to Consider:
Colors and emotions are closely linked. Copious data affirms that color can create a soothing environment or conversely, an agitated one. Given the already hypersensitive situations employees are facing due to Covid-19, Classic Blue, Pantone’s Color of the year 2020 or other deescalating shades of blue provide a feeling of trust and faith. So ditch the vibrant reds and yellows and opt for blues and greens to create a softer space.
Figure 2. Pantone Blues and Greens. (Well, you would be too. December 31, 2014, Robert Patrick. https://robtpatrick.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/well-you-would-be-too/).
Florescent lights are synonymous with commercial spaces, but what affect do they have on employees? New research from Cornell University has determined work spaces that incorporate natural light verses relying on artificial light “significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity” (View, Inc, 2018). Take advantage of windows and the healing effect they have.
Figure 3. Natural Light in an Office.(Natural Light Tops Office Amenities List, FaculitesNet.com, https://www.facilitiesnet.com/lighting/tip/Natural-Light-Tops-Office-Amenities-List–42637
Living plants are known to not only reduce stress, but purify the air from toxins. According to NASA, toxins commonly found in work places such as benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde were all reduced by common houseplants to purify the air (Plants and Indoor Air Quality).
Figure 4. Indoor Plants. (Photography by Lightfieldstudios, 7 Mistakes you’re making with your houseplants, August 16, 2019, HouseBeautiful, https://www.housebeautiful.com/uk/garden/plants/a177/houseplant-mistakes/.)
In this era of heighted awareness to germs, having hygienic surfaces is a must. Quartz countertops make an ideal solution as they are nonporous and easy to clean. Quartz itself is a naturally occurring stone and some manufacturers are maintaining their dramatic look while adding the benefit of cleanability.
Figure 5. Brittanicca.( CambriaQuartz., https://www.cambriausa.com/designs/design-palette/#!/slab/brittanicca).
Adding elements of nature has an astounding impact on our psychological health and overall well-being. Understanding that simple changes to one’s environment can have a profound affect on the workforce and will help aid in the transition to normalcy.
“Plants and Indoor Air Quality.” InterNACHI®, www.nachi.org/plants-indoor-air-quality.htm.
“The Impact and Benefits of Biophilia in the Workplace.” Terrapin Bright Green, 30 May 2018, www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/blog/2018/05/the-impact-and-benefits-of-biophilia-in-the-workplace/.
View, Inc. “Study: Natural Light Is the Best Medicine for the Office.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 27 June 2018, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-natural-light-is-the-best-medicine-for-the-office-300590905.html.
Anna Geilman is a Richmond interior designer who works in both residential and commercial spaces. Anna specializes in both new construction and remodels and guides her clients to envision their spaces through 3-d renderings. She has authored a handbook to help caregivers and other designers create safe spaces for those with Sensory Integration Disorders such as Autism. To contact Anna and view previous work online visit anngeilmaninteriors.com