Most of the world is quarantined right now amidst this health crisis with COVID-19 and many people are working from home if they can. Thank you healthcare workers, grocery clerks and all the people who are on the front line providing help to us while putting your life at risk. If you can’t work from home, but are stuck at home doing projects, spring cleaning, try and make time to do things that fuel your career and foster creativity and intellect until it is safe to resume normal-ish activities again. It is a scary time having to stay at home, alter your daily routines, distance yourselves from society and the people.
A few weeks ago my work used to consist of onsite environmental assessments and design consultations. I am now working from home and have had to get creative on how to continue to do the work I love. I am doing a few things to keep me busy like writing for Work in Mind, (thank you Joanna and Sam!) I am taking more online classes to get my certifications for healthy building and design and am currently transitioning my business model to offer online products and services with support from my home office. That way I can still help people from my home to theirs without being exposed to viruses or toxins. I think now more than ever we need to be clever and adaptable to shift positively towards creating a brighter future that helps promote wellbeing whatever you do. I recommend taking online courses, learning new skills, creating art, writing, and thinking about ways you can transition your business to an online model if you can.
We need to support our wellbeing now more than ever. So, I thought introducing some elements of biophilic design would help create a healthy platform for many people wanting to improve their situation at home. Some people have a designated space for their computer, writing station, studio, garage to create their work, but some do not and it’s important wherever it is that it is a space that is supportive, healthy, functional and inspiring.
Biophilic design is essential to my work and life. I have always been drawn to the outdoors and plants both inside and out. My mother is a renowned landscape architect so my appreciation for plantscapes and design goes without saying. It is one of the reasons I relocated to Portland almost 12 years ago so my family and I could enjoy the forests and mountains so close to home. It is the innate response to the connection to nature that produces wellbeing.
What is Biophilic Design?
Biophilia (meaning love of nature ) focuses on human’s innate attraction to nature and natural processes. It suggests that we all have a genetic connection to the natural world built up through hundreds of thousands of years of living in agrarian settings.
It is a term coined by American psychologist Edward O Wilson in the 1980’s, when he observed how people were being disconnected with the natural world. With high rates of migration to urban settings in the developed world and soaring rates in developing countries – Biophilia is of ever increasing importance to our health and wellbeing in the built environment.
Biophilic Design uses these ideas as principles to create a human centered approach that when applied improves many of the spaces that we live and work in today, with numerous benefits to our health and wellbeing.
Benefits Biophilic Design
Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment have been demonstrated through research to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity, creativity and self reported rates of wellbeing. The World Health OrganIzation expects stress related illness, such as mental health disorders and cardiovascular disease, to be the two largest contributors to disease by 2020. With a diminished connection to nature, the increasing pressure on urban space and the ubiquitous technological presence we have less opportunity to recuperate our mental and physical energy.
- Bringing in elements of nature has been proven to reduce stress and promote a sense of peace and wellbeing
- Productivity can be increased by 8%, rates of wellbeing up by 13%, increases in creativity
- The presence of vegetation & landscaping has been found to increase average rental rates on retail spaces with customers indicating they were willing to pay 8-12 % more for goods and services at retail spaces.
“Biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our wellbeing and expedite healing; “
– Terrapin Bright Green
Here are a few things you can do to apply the goodness of some of the 14 patterns of Biophilic Design from Terrapin Bright Green to your Home Office.
Visual Connection with Nature
A view to elements of nature, living systems and natural processes is essential to creativity and wellbeing. Ask yourself, if you had your choice, would you choose a view of a wall or a window with trees to look at on a daily basis? I understand if you live in an urban setting and trees are hard to come by, you can create your own mini forest with indoor plants.
Thermal & Airflow Variability
Having a supportive temperature and healthy indoor air is imperative to help support health and wellbeing while we work. Subtle changes in air temperature, relative humidity, airflow across the skin, and surface temperatures that mimic natural environments are a big part of biophilic design. We intake approximately 11,500 liters of each day: the air. Indoor air can contain harmful microorganisms like mold and bacteria, fine particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and a host of other pollutants.
We may not be able to perceive the presence of these common indoor air pollutants, their effects can be significant. I recommend using a quality air purifier to not only purify and exchange the air, it creates white noise diffusing interruptive auditory elements and it helps combat viruses and bacteria. Also, make sure your furnace filters are changed every quarter and that the temperature is just right, not too hot and not too cold. Open the windows occasionally to feel a breeze or get in touch with the outside to connect.
Dynamic & Diffuse Light
Leverages varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time to create conditions that occur in nature. Lighting is essential for productivity and wellbeing. The wrong light can cast a spell on your health and sleep. At night use a full spectrum warm glow as well as use an application on your computer that decreases blue light like FlUX. Do the same for your phone or tablet. I love salt lamps to evoke the inviting warmth into the environment. Especially during winter months the salt lamps also produce negative ions and help clean the air.
Welcome to my home office! Having a home office is something I decided on years ago by deciding to start my own businesses so I could work when my kids were in school and at night when they were asleep. A place for withdrawal from environmental conditions or the main flow of activity, in which the individual is protected from behind and overhead. Make sure your space is sheltered from chaos so you can focus, have peace of mind to do your best work. Set it up in a place that is private, quiet and free from clutter and it is clean. Start your day out and end it with a tidy desk. Organize your paperwork and put the stacks of paper in a box or bin that contains them. Place a photo or artwork that makes you smile of a place or loved one(s) to remind you of the beauty of life.
Limit your EMF exposure
When you set up your office, make sure it is away from your electrical panel, smart meter, outside power lines or transformers. If you are in an apartment or condo your shared wall could have wireless devices or other things with higher readings. Try and be close to an outside wall/window if you can. Even though you can’t hear, smell, taste the frequencies they can still interfere with your health. See the article I wrote for Work In Mind for more information – Top 5 ways to boost your health and reduce your exposure to EMFs at your workstation.
It’s a stressful time, undoubtedly for everyone. If you can take the time to set up a space for you so you can thrive and be inspired to do your best work while supporting your health and wellbeing. It is important to hydrate, stretch and take breaks when you are working, no matter what you do. It refreshes your body and mind so you can come back with new energy. For more tips on setting up your own office, connect with me and we can set up an online appointment.
About DesignWell Studios:
DesignWell Studios is an environmental wellness design and testing company that optimizes built environments that promote beauty, health + well being.
Co-owner/Environmental Wellness Director at DesignWell Studios, Michelle has helped many clients redesign their environments to a healthier place who have suffered from illnesses such as leukemia, asthma, cancer, environmental toxins and mental illness. She has worked on many cases involving poor indoor air quality stemming from engineered wood flooring and cabinets that were made with formaldehyde. It is her purpose to help spread the message of healthy building materials, finishes and furnishings throughout the design/build community and beyond.
Work in Mind is a content platform designed to give a voice to thinkers, businesses, journalists and regulatory bodies in the field of healthy buildings.