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Global research report reveals true impact of office design


Global study shows those that work in environments with natural elements report a 6% increase in productivity, 15% increase in well-being and 15% increase in creativity

London, 31st March 2015; The Human Spaces report into The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the workplace, commissioned by global modular flooring experts, Interface and led by Organisational Psychologist, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, has today revealed that employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15% higher level of well-being, are 6% more productive and 15% more creative overall.

The research sampled 7,600 office workers from sixteen countries globally, building a profile of office environments and the impact of incorporating natural design elements in each country. It concluded office design was so important to workers that a third (33%) of global respondents stated it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere. 

The Human Spaces global study shows that interaction with nature is becoming increasingly limited, as 85% of global office workers surveyed were based in an urban environment.* 


On average, office workers globally spend between 40-49 hours a week in the office, whereas in the UK the biggest proportion of office employees spend just 30-39 hours a week working in an office environment.  


Despite city-dominated lives, the research found people have an inherent affinity to elements that reflect nature. So for the world’s organisations that want to create a high performing workforce, investing in bringing nature inspired design into their office space can be an effective design tool.

Alarmingly, in the UK 66% of workers reported having no natural light, above the global average of 47%. Yet, when it came to choosing features for their ideal office space, natural light came top of the list, requested by 37% of workers. 

According to the Human Spaces global study, the ideal biophilic office space in the UK would include: 

  1. Natural light (33%)
  2. View of sea (27%)
  3. View of countryside (22%)
  4. View of lake (20%)
  5. Quiet working space (12%)


Interestingly, over one third of global office workers (39%) said they would feel most productive at their own desk in a solitary office, while 36% would feel most productive at their own desk in an open plan office. 

Sociable workers in the UK bucked the trend with 33% of office employees feeling most productive in an open plan office, compared with 26% opting for a solitary space.  

On average, 28% of office workers globally had no quiet space in which to work. In comparison, the UK had significantly higher numbers of workers (44%) unable to find a quiet space. 

Flexible working also came in as a surprisingly low choice, with just 11% of workers choosing a space that suits their needs the most productive way to work. However, in the UK this was even lower, with just 7% of workers opting for flexible working options.

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, said: “The benefit of design inspired by nature, known as biophilic design, is accumulating evidence at a rapid pace. Looking at a snapshot of global working environments, up to one in five people have no natural elements within their workspace and alarmingly nearly 50% of workers have no natural light. Yet a third of us say that workplace design would affect our decision to join a company. There’s a big disparity here and one that hints at workplace design only recently rising to prominence as a crucial factor.”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper adds: As well as enabling organisations to make links between their physical spaces and the performance of their people, this study throws light on one of the defining challenges of modern life – our ability to cope with urbanisation and loss of connection with green spaces.”

Commenting on what the research findings could mean for design in the office space, Chip DeGrace, Executive Creative Director at Interface, said“What we can clearly identify is that there needs to be an ongoing evolution of the traditional office space, and it seems that as a global population, we are becoming ever more cognizant of our surroundings and how they impact us.

“Biophilic design is the art of understanding how nature can influence us and how we can bring those sorts of influences into the spaces within which we work. We can see that working in environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, leads to a higher level of well-being and productivity, which is an important consideration for any business in terms of responsibility to its employees. What’s more, the research indicated that by incorporating simple design elements which help to create a connection to nature, a business could potentially boost the productivity of its employees by 6% – a significant benefit to the bottom line of any company.”

*’Urban environment’ includes city centre, city suburb, town and downtown.


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