We all possess a biological need to be connected to nature from a physical, mental and social perspective. When people lose such a connection, then personal wellbeing and the capacity to socially interact with others and therefore also their job performance are all negatively impacted.

There have been many different studies that have demonstrated the advantages of incorporating nature into the work environment through biophilic design - a design framework that intertwines the patterns of nature into the built environment, strengthening the human-nature connection. This could include the incorporation of natural elements such as stone, wood, living green walls, water features, and plants into the interior environment.

The presence of natural greenery such as plants and living green walls helps to increase wellbeing by stimulating each of the five human senses which helps to reduce stress levels and blood pressure. Other advantages include improved cognitive functions, mental health and focus, better mood, and an increased sense of belonging along with higher learning rates and increased productivity.


What is driving the rise of green spaces?

As reported by UN Environment Programme 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, 40% of the buildings we inhabit are responsible for global carbon emissions so creating greener and more sustainable offices is an important step to start tackling the climate crisis.

The supply of green real estate is also on the rise as investors have been savvy to identify the value of sustainable investing. As such, lenders are starting to offer ‘sustainability-linked loans’, which incentivise the development of green buildings that feature efficient architectural designs, solar power, energy efficiency and even social KPIs linked to the mental health of those in the building.

An increased focus on creating greener offices has also been heightened by Covid-19 with employees’ wellness being at the forefront of employers’ minds. Equally, today’s workforce is becoming increasingly green-conscious and are looking to join companies that match these values. As such employees are more than ever looking for businesses occupying green, well appointed, people centric and tech savvy offices. To meet these demands, businesses are looking to implement biophilic design into their office spaces whilst also identifying other ways to make more sustainable and greener improvements.   


Benefits of green spaces in the workplace

By bringing the outdoors in to an office, research has shown that employees tend to be happier, healthier and more productive. A 2015 report from Human Spaces found that workers exposed to greenery in their daily working lives are 15% higher level of well-being, 6% more productive, and 15% more creative.

As we will explore, there are many positive reasons for introducing green spaces and biophilic design into the office:


Healthier, happier employees

Plants provide health benefits as they help to improve the overall air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen into the air and also contributing to regulating temperature and humidity levels. There are many indoor plants that are especially beneficial for absorbing pollutants and cleaning the air including English Ivy, Aloe Vera, Weeping Fig and Boston Fern.

Furthermore, a 2016 Harvard study revealed that when people work in green-certified offices, they experience a 30% reduction in sick days taken by employees. Cognitive function scores were reported as 26% higher than their peers in non-certified buildings whilst 30% experienced fewer symptoms associated with “sick building syndrome” which is where people in a building suffer from symptoms of illness or become infected with chronic disease from the building in which they work or reside.


Reduced stress

For many people in the workplace, plants have been proven to reduce their stress levels. Since plants are natural, they provide a comfortable and relaxing feature to any office space, helping employees to reduce stress and enabling them to complete their work better.


Increased productivity

When a person is less stressed, their work efficiency improves so it’s not surprising that this stress reduction leads to higher productivity. In a psychology experiment conducted by the University of Exeter, researchers studied people in a lean office versus an office with plants. It was found that participants in the green office not only had higher productivity by 15 percent, but also reported increased workplace satisfaction and better concentration compared to the workers in the lean space. The study suggested that adding plants to an office makes employees more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work. Other academic research also supports that green spaces can relieve mental fatigue, which can improve employee work performance, satisfaction, learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness.


Appealing aesthetics

Plants, especially those that flower can really improve the overall look of an office bringing a splash of colour to an otherwise plain environment.

Plants also provide an attractive and welcoming display which can create a positive first impression to new recruits, visitors and clients whilst bringing a focal point of interest for employees to enjoy throughout the working day.


Planning permission for green space

The increase in working from home has prompted many people to create garden offices at home. In most cases planning permission is not needed for these spaces with local councils allowing outbuildings of any kind within permitted development so long as they are under 2.5m in height externally (or under 3m in height if 2m away from your boundary).

If you live in a listed building, flat, maisonettes or SSSI (site of special scientific interest) then you will most likely require planning permission for your building. There are also other considerations for those who live in Areas of Natural Beauty (AONB) and conservation areas that affect where in your garden your office can be built which is worth bearing in mind.


Find your own green space

With plants reducing stress, creating happiness, increasing productivity, make an office look better, improving the air quality, and providing comfort, there are clearly numerous benefits to adding natural elements to the workplace. Whether that means adding a few plants or creating an entire green wall, there are limitless options to explore with green space design to make for a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.


Here at Ethical Property almost all of our centres have a garden or outdoor space. On the interior walls of The Green House, our award-winning eco building in Bethnal Green, we have living moss and hanging plants, as well as a roof terrace adorned with edible plants. Our green spaces are great places to be in and collaborate with fellow changemakers. Our mission is to provide office space that is used in the best interests of the society, planet and economy. Many of our office hubs also benefit from being close to beautiful green spaces and local parks so if you’re a charity/non-profit looking for new working space, get in touch with us at sales@ethicalproperty.co.uk, call us on 0330 016 3440, or visit www.ethicalproperty.co.uk/contact-us.