The impacts of employee wellness programs, such as fitness center memberships, tobacco cessation programs and workspace wellness design, have been well documented as having both a favorable ROI (return on investment) for employers and a stabilizing factor for the workforce itself. Then, there’s the ‘human design’ factor via ergonomics as a sub-component to employee wellness, which has also shown a great ROI and workforce impact in lessening workplace strain injuries. Such physical health initiatives have made great progress in the workplace. Now, we are advancing the effort to promote psychological wellness in workplace design.   One approach that has measurable benefits is called biophilic design. What is it and is it worth more investment in employee wellness? Let’s explore.

Employers Can’t Afford to Devalue or Ignore Employee Wellness

The problem with health initiatives is that most people spend half their lives in the confines of a workplace, which is rarely conducive to good wellness habits. This is where biophilic design comes in to support the wellness of its occupants by integrating human health and well-being into the actual building’s design.

According to Harvard researchers, employers can see a 6:1 return for every dollar an employer spends on wellness. They specifically found that employee absenteeism costs fell by a little over $2.70 and medical costs by almost $3.30. Other studies show similar ROI when it comes to productivity, creativity, and satisfaction facets from wellness initiatives.

Most companies allocate at least 90 percent of annual operating costs to their workforce, making their employees one of their biggest assets. As such, their well-being is a factor that simply can’t be given partial to no attention.

A 2013 study showcased the mindset gap between employer and employee when it found that only 36 percent of 1,300 employers felt they could implement an employee health and wellness strategy as 87 percent of the 10,000 employee respondents considered such a program a significant factor in selecting an employer.

Employers have since realized such programs have become necessary to both attract and retain a quality workforce; statistics show that employers offering general wellness programs jumped to 58 percent in 2008 and up to 70 percent in 2015. But, just having a wellness program isn’t enough. For maximum success, it must be comprehensive in design.

Biophilic Design: A Comprehensive Addition To Wellness and Health Programs

Traditionally, health and wellness programs have singularly focused on physical health and all but ignored the mental half of the wellness equation. Office spaces have been designed in ways leading to articles, Pinterest pages, and hashtag wars for the worst of the worst cubicles. Artificial lighting and windowless spaces with no natural light sources beg the employee’s circadian and hormone systems to malfunction and depression and obesity to take root.

The unhappiness such workspaces and environment causes stifles creativity, productiveness, teamwork, cohesion, and just all around makes for a miserable work life and an unhealthful body and mind.

Biophilic design is all about integrating natural space into the workspace based on science showing that humans have a biological need to connect with blue and green spaces.

Studies have shown that blue and green space alleviates stress, reduces mental fatigue and burnout, spawns creative thought, promotes attention, and boosts memory and mood. And, these mental impacts have a secondary physical health effect, such as lowering blood pressure, increasing stamina, lessening eye strain, and reducing the number of medications they take.

The ROI for employers is clear in studies showing that adding biophilic design increases employee productivity and performance and reduces employee sick leave hours. One study actually found employers integrating daylight into their office space save $2000 per employee per year. Another showed more efficient call times when an employee had a view of nature. For retailers, a study recently revealed a 40 percent competitive advance when the workspace had natural greenery and sunlight.

Before thinking that green and blue space just isn’t achievable in your architectural design at this point, remember that implementing biophilic design can start small and build into your future. A recent study showed that a mere 40-second indoor/outdoor break where the green of nature could be seen increased concentration by six percent.

In closing, biophilic design implementation adds a comprehensive layer to wellness programs singularly focused on the physical aspects of health and well-being, and it’s an ongoing return that will offer a workforce as efficient and effective as they are retained by a stellar work environment.