Nature is Nurture: Creating workplaces that feel like a walk in the park

I started to write this blog without knowing that it is Mental Health Awareness Week this week here in Aotearoa with a theme that really resonates with me. 

Their theme is:” Let nature in, strengthen your wellbeing – Mā te taiao kia whakapakari tōu oranga!” 

We often talk about connecting to Nature, heading outside at the weekend or in the evenings as they become longer here in the Southern Hemisphere.  

But why do we wait until we leave work to re-forge our link to Nature? Wouldn’t it be great to be “connected” to Nature in our workplace? 

Office fitouts seem to follow trends and currently we are in a resi-mercial renaissance full of brass and velvet with just a whiff of private member’s club.  It looks gorgeous, feels great but does it help us be the best we can be in our day? 

It has been scientifically proven that Nature has a positive impact on our wellbeing, whether it is through the effect of Nature sounds on the nervous system to calm it, or the effect of looking at a tree rather than a wall whilst in hospital promoting faster healing. We have an unconscious response because we are part of Nature, something its sometimes easy to forget! 

Our productivity can be better when we have access to Nature. Environmental psychologist Stephen Kaplan says that Nature creates “involuntary fascination,” helping us restore directed attention and focus.” So by being able to look at a natural vista or greenery between tasks or when we are interrupted at work, our time to refocus can be reduced. 

Our need for Nature is a primal one and as we continue to develop our cities to house more and more of the population, we seem to be building to cover the earth rather than connect to it. We put more and more people in glass boxes that provide both work and home environments to many and increase the disconnect from the earth’s energy and all the good things that brings. Studies show that the average American spends over 90% of their time indoors so let’s see how we can bring the outside into our workplaces, creating a positive and energising experience. 

Sustainable design becoming mainstream is a huge step in the right direction, we are creating healthier, more energy efficient homes and workplaces. A sustainable lean environment with some planting here and there won’t, however, help us with our productivity, focus and wellbeing as much as it could if we integrated Nature more.

Biophilic design addresses the need for us to relate to Nature in our built environment. By designing using Nature’s forms and patterns and creating sensory experiences and links to our location we can create spaces that foster wellbeing and reduce stress. 

Perhaps we can look at how we can we create more of the indoor/outdoor flow in our workplaces? Instead of an internal stair linking floors within a tenancy, why not an external one as the main route so that we can touch base with the air and sky and each other on our journey?  

Or what about a ten-minute nature walk around the office, bare feet optional – just saying! 

The benefits of slowing down, syncing with the rhythms of Nature and taking some long slow deep breaths cannot be quantified. Try it, see how it feels. 

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”. Lao Tzu 

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week and how you can get involved click here