Biophilic Design – the future of work/life balance

Earlier this week I attended Beyond Balance, a conference about work/life balance organised by the Balance Network at Anglia Ruskin University. We had some great talks and I came away with a notebook full of insights about the way work is changing. Inevitably, there was a lot of talk about the negative impacts of digital life on work/life balance, so I felt it my duty to evangelise a little about technobiophilia and technature balance. It all starts with biophilic design, and this post offers just a brief introduction to some of the ways we could use it to help work/life balance and move towards technature balance.

What is biophilic design?

Professor Stephen Kellert, one of the founding pioneers in this area, writes:

Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature. (biophilicdesign.net)

Watch this video trailer to learn more.

Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life from Tamarack Media on Vimeo.

Biophilic design in the workplace

You’ve probably seen examples of biophilic design all over the place without realising they’re part of a larger movement. Big corporations are investing huge amounts of money in biophilic workplaces featuring natural materials like plants, stones, wood, and water. Look out for walls festooned with hanging planters, indoor waterfalls, and zen gardens like the one featured in the hit TV series Silicon Valley.

A recent research report by Human Nature says that of the offices they surveyed, 47% had no natural light and 58% had no plants.  How does your workplace compare?

The top five elements that workers most wanted to see in their offices were:

  1. Natural light (44%)
  2. Indoor plants (20%)
  3. Quiet working space (19%)
  4. View of the sea (17%)
  5. Bright colours (15%)

The good news is that you don’t have to be a wealthy company to bring biophilic design into your workplace. Designers like Oliver Heath advise businesses of all size on how to bring nature into offices, homes, public places – anywhere where people spend time.

Technobiophilic Design

The next step beyond getting the relationship between nature and your offline workplace right, is integrating nature with your online life. That’s where technobiophilic design comes in; it connects our digital lives to the natural world so we can feel and perform better. This provides an intriguing challenge for developers, one which I outlined here in some detail. More about that in future posts, but meanwhile check out the growing collection of examples at my Pinterest site.

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