Updated: Jul 21
It's time to reopen your office. But after a year of working remotely, how can you bring your employees back in a way that's safe and supportive?
While some may rejoice about their office reopening, experts worry that there will be a new cause for burnout as employees return after a year of enjoying the flexibility of working from home. During this period, many workers have created and revamped their home offices to be peaceful places where they enjoy working.
Now, many employees are starting to think about the value of a home office after seeing how productive they have been. At the same time, many are missing the chance meetings and connections they could foster with coworkers in a traditional office space.
The Harvard Business Review recently released a podcast with Anne-Laure Fayard, a professor at NYU's Tandon School of Engineering, discussing her research findings. Laure-Fayard found that not only were workers missing the social part of the office but that a lot of what workers tend to learn comes from observation. These social connections help workers' productivity and help companies build their cultures.
One way to create a tranquil office space for the post-pandemic world is to utilize biophilic design. This type of design incorporates nature and keeps employees' needs in mind. Here are five ways to incorporate biophilic design into your post-pandemic office.
Decorate with Earthy Colors
An easy place to start with biophilic design is to look at the office color palette. Bringing an element of humanity and nature into your work environment through color is a simple way to add natural elements. Human beings gravitate towards nature and are drawn to the healthy colors that remind us of blue skies, green forests, or brown savannas.
It's important to select colors that bring life and energy to mind when designing your color palette. Think of colors that evoke the presence of nature.
Green has been shown to enhance creativity, while warm yellows and reds can help employees focus on expanding their attention span. Additionally, art that features nature scenes and colors can help reduce employee stress.
Increase the Outside Air Flow
Needing 'a breath of fresh air' is more than just a saying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend prioritizing ventilation in office buildings. Consulting an HVAC professional can help you find an ideal ventilation solution for your office building, but you should also consider your windows.
Most windows found in office buildings are non-operational to ensure a good seal and energy efficiency. Normally this would be fine, but in a post-COVID environment, maximizing outdoor airflow is key to keeping employees happy and healthy.
A few simple ways you can improve indoor air quality include installing special windows with a heat exchange system and opening your windows throughout the day. If you are in an office space where your windows won't open, consider enhancing the cleaning techniques you use in your office, including installing air purifiers, scrubbers, or dehumidifiers.
Create Communal Spaces
When you start to design your office ahead of your return, you may want to rethink how the office is used. While some employees may want to continue working remotely and feel more productive that way, they may miss having a collaborative space to bounce ideas off peers. This has led several companies to rethink what the office is really for.
Salesforce recently published its own redesign playbook after revamping its Sydney office. They found that 19% of employees felt more socially connected to their coworkers when they worked in an office and collaborative space was utilized more than desk space.
They used this information and redesigned the lobbies, elevators, and conference rooms, and added more collaborative spaces to meet worker's needs. As a result, productivity increased.
Bring the Outdoors Inside
You may have noticed a rise in plantfluencers on social media. What you may not realize is that they are incorporating biophilic design in their homes. Besides the aesthetics, these influencers also understand the other benefits of bringing the outdoors in.
The benefits of indoor house plants are well researched and documented. They can improve indoor air quality, act as humidifiers, and reduce pollution. They also reduce stress.
Silicon Valley companies have already begun to realize the benefit of nature. Facebook's Menlo Park campus now features a 3.6-acre rooftop garden, Microsoft implemented outdoor meeting spaces, and Amazon's Seattle office features a place called The Spheres.
While it may be tempting to suggest that employees bring their own plants to work, companies can take a step towards this trend by adding green installations to their office's communal spaces.
Start Designing Your Post-Pandemic Office
Thinking about the ways you can incorporate biophilic design in your home office can go a long way in improving your employee's comfort. While you may think this requires a huge renovation or budget, that isn't always the case. Starting small by changing the color of your walls, rethinking communal spaces, or adding some greenery are all great first steps.
Think of these changes as an investment in your employees, allowing them to do their best work in a place where they can get what they need.