How to Use Natural Elements to Create a Productive Office Space

There are tons of ideas flying around about what makes workers productive. Is it what we eat, how we organize our workspaces, or is it more about where we work?

It turns out, our work environments influence our productivity and general well-being. Employees who work in offices with biophilic design elements report a 13% higher well-being and are 8% more productive than those who work in environments without them, according to a report commissioned by Interface, a modular flooring company.

Bringing elements of nature into the workplace can have lasting results for employees. Here's how to incorporate them into your space:

What It Means to Design a Space with Nature in Mind

What makes a space natural, anyway? Unfortunately, you can’t haul the Alps into your office, but you can focus on a few principles that will help you bring the feeling of nature indoors.

The International Journal of Environmental Health Research created twelve “evidence-based nature contact recommendations” for designing biophilic spaces. Here are some of the things the organization recommends:

  • Pay attention to outdoor landscape, cultivate grounds for viewing
  • Create healing gardens as an escape
  • Consider allowing pets inside, creating a fish tank or allowing dogs indoors
  • Prioritize light-colored rooms with bright natural light
  • Provide clear views of nature from office windows
  • Show nature photography and realistic nature art

Offering variety in your space can help, too. Consider creating project spaces, little nooks, and places to work that go beyond the standard desk.

“If you just let nature happen, you get diversity,” said Betty Hase, the Advanced Knowledge and Applications Lead at Herman Miller. “And people are more comfortable, more engaged, more alive, in interiors that offer variety. Environments that provide interesting and changing artifacts, unique architectural details, and graphic or video displays for people to ‘discover’ as they move through the workplace can provide the stimulating qualities of mystery and surprise that are part of the natural environment.”JH_Michael Mac Bolster-Houghton_004

The Steps to Make It Happen

Everyone wants a more productive office environment, but how can you add more natural elements to a new or existing office space without a costly overhaul?


1. Decide what’s feasible in your space

When you start thinking about incorporating natural elements, ask yourself:

  • What elements in this space are already natural? How can we make better use of these elements?

  • What’s on the walls? Could we find art with more natural subjects?

  • Do we have outdoor space that could be turned into a refuge?

  • Does our office have “discovery” elements such as unique architectural details, television screens, or interesting artifacts?

2. Plan it out

A natural office can’t happen without a plan. What is your budget? Do you plan on swapping out artwork, or furniture, or purchasing plants? Do you need other people to make this happen?

Creating a planning and strategy document for decorating your office can help you stay organized, and can be passed around to different team members. Tools like Trello and Smartsheet are particularly helpful for planning office-wide changes.

3. Execute

Now the fun part– execution! To put your plan in place, you’ll need to rally your office. Make sure everyone knows that the changes are happening and why you’ve decided to incorporate more natural elements.DC_Michael Mac Bolster-Houghton - 0046-2

Natural Elements Improve Well-Being

Office workers spend the majority of their waking hours at work. Because of this, the office should be a comfortable space where people can easily get things done. At the same time, it should help them feel connected with the outside world, not shut away from it.

With a little consideration and planning, you can bring nature into your office space conveniently and affordably. And if your walls need some help, drop us a line


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