A number of progressive workplace issues have crossed into mainstream thinking over the past few years, and perhaps none more so than biophilia. It is now a principle that has become an issue talked about in the mass media, as shown by a recent CNN interview with one of Europe’s leading proponents of biophilic office design, Oliver Heath. The interview explores how biophilia taps into our embedded love of nature to evoke certain behaviours and emotions.
In turn this mainstream interest in biophilia is a sign of how organisations are looking at sophisticated ways of meeting a number of interrelated business challenges, not least engaging with employees and looking after their wellbeing while improving productivity. Biophilic office design has shown itself to have a number of demonstrably beneficial outcomes in this regard, both anecdotally and backed up by evidence.
It is also a very contemporary way of addressing issues of productivity and wellbeing. The approach adopted by enlightened employers is no longer focused on creating cultures and environments that do no harm, but rather on creating an environment and culture that fosters engagement, improves wellbeing, address stresses and pressures and helps them be more productive. It is now common for firms to have well defined wellbeing strategies in place. Nearly half of UK employers have a strategy already in place and 60 percent of CEOs say that the mental health of employees is their top priority, according to the Employee Wellbeing research report for 2018 from the Rewards and Employees Benefits Association.
Biophilic design plays an important role in this regard, but it is part of the wider of how spaces are created to improve people’s health and wellbeing. Because so many firms are now addressing this question in increasingly sophisticated ways, as well as biophilic office design we may be hearing a lot more about salutogenic design in the near future.
The traditional dichotomy people had applied between health and illness was not sufficient to describe the constantly changing continuum of outcomes people experience in their daily lives
Salutogenesis is a term coined by the medical sociologist Anton Antonovsky and describes his research in the 1970s and 1980s into the links between stress and physical and mental health. He found that the traditional dichotomy people had applied between health and illness was not sufficient to describe the constantly changing continuum of outcomes people experience in their daily lives. He derived the term as an antonym to pathogenesis which describes how ill health is treated after a condition has become evident.