Happy By Design

Is it possible to design a space that genuinely fosters productivity and wellbeing? Research indicates that it certainly is. And if numbers don’t assure you, think of a time when you’ve found yourself in a space that somehow does wonders for your productivity. It could be a well-lit room, with warm colours, or comfy furniture – everyone almost always has a workspace they love.


In the past, we have written about Biophilic Design and the benefits it presents to all stakeholders. But we have yet to explore how aspects of this design methodology create a sense of wellness and productivity in the workspace. Given the overwhelming amount of time people spend in their offices, it makes sense to understand and invest in these strategies.

Interior design at its core shouldn’t be treated as makeup to an empty space. Interior design is a tool that is used to develop and transform an empty shell to one with personality, that enhances mood, productivity, and creativity for those who interact with it. The WELL Building Standard provides structure to this goal. It uses research backed strategies to promote the development of interior spaces designed to advance the aspects of happiness and wellness amongst its occupants.

Plant Strategically

Incorporating potted plants is barely the tip of the iceberg in biophilic thought. When planned and executed the right way, plants can do wonders for productivity and wellness in your workspace. Scattering random and varying shades of plants across the office mimic the organic display of plants in nature, subconsciously reinforcing our inherent connection to it. Hanging plants, moss and living walls, add an interesting dimension to plant life display in the office, giving the space a vibrant look and feel. Plants not only improve air quality, but also help with noise reduction – a key tool in managing distraction. For those seeking those coveted LEED or WELL Building certifications, adding biophilic elements can be a cost effective way to add points to the overall score.

Chris Barnes, Managing Director of Broadway Interiors, is a big believer of biophilic design in the workplace. “The different facets of biophilia have been around for a while, but it is only in recent times that public awareness and statistics have become commonplace, to demonstrate the tangible gains for the work office,” he says. “Biophilic principles provide benefits to every work user, hence it is incumbent on specifiers, designers and the like to actively embrace the concept wherever possible. Moreover, any design mantra that helps makes design “fun” has to be a win-win for designer and end user alike!

We gloss over some of the most basic and effective tools that can be used to create a biophilic work environment.


KHDA Headquarters, Dubai, designed by Broadway Interiors

Encourage Movement and Social Activity

Humans are not designed to stay still and isolated. It is then no surprise that we hate the cubicle. An interesting part of biophilic design that doesn’t receive too much attention, is encouraging movement through design. Renowned biophilic design consultant, Oliver Heath, describes this design process as deliberately human-centered. Take, for example, the placement of a coffee machine. You can have one on every floor or department. But when you save the best coffee for the cafe or pantry, you’re encouraging people to meet at a common spot and socialise. This encourages conversation and cross-pollination of ideas, which in turn leads to happier, productive employees.


Create Flexible and Interdependent Spaces

A defining feature of Interface’s +Positive spaces is flexibility. According to the Human Spaces report, 39 percent of workers polled felt most productive at their own desk in a private office. Some 36 percent said that they felt most productive at their own desk in an open plan office. And 28 percent of respondents reported that they do not have a quiet space to work. This just goes to show that there is no ‘one size fits all’ for an interdisciplinary and collaborative team. Workspaces must offer flexibility for people to work according to their own rhythm and mood. The team at Interface looks to modularity and nature for the answer. The best spaces consist of connected and interdependent zones, much like how a forest functions. According to Interface, these spaces facilitate increased user engagement.


Maximise Lighting

Natural light is important. From Vitamin D to balancing our circadian rhythms, the amount and type of light we’re exposed to has a significant effect on our mood and productivity. Obviously, the easiest way to allow sunlight in our workspaces is via large windows, and to place workstations in the direction of sunlight. But not all office spaces have that luxury, which means working with artificial light, adjusting its colour and playing with the intensity of it. Some companies are leading the way in this space. In fact, Google has asked its employees to hang light meters around their necks, in an effort to measure and understand how much natural light coders get at their desks, and how it is affecting their performance.

“One of the reasons many of us come to this country (the UAE) is for the sunshine and the natural light,” says Barnes. “So if we can bring these elements into the workspace, that would be fantastic. And I think as designers, we have been inadvertently utilising this design tool of maximising natural light and making daylight work for you. However, through the biophilic design movement, a lot more interest has been garnered in this arena, and it is appreciated a lot more. That’s the maturity of the country we will live – little by little, the awareness is increasing.”

Another aspect of lighting is distribution. This refers to the use of varying intensity of lights, through windows or skylights, to reinforce its connection to natural rhythms of day and night. According to a report titled “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design”, the objective of natural lighting and proper light distribution is to mimic the natural colour changes of the sun. The response to this include lower body temperature fluctuations, improved heart rate, and optimised circadian rhythms.

Article info


Date added:

18 December, 2018

Related Articles

Saving Water

Flooring for Good