Connection to Nature – An Interview with Sir Cary Cooper

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As some of the world’s most forward-thinking designs seek to integrate the efficient ingenuity of some of Nature’s rarer creations, the case for incorporating the most basic of natural elements – sunlight and green plants – has reemerged with renewed vigor.

Equal Measure

Workplaces that incorporate natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, can increase productivity levels.

The findings of a survey of 7,600 workers in 16 countries led by Sir Cary Cooper, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University and co-founder of Robertson-Cooper, make the unambiguous case for biophilia in the workplace. According to the survey, workplaces that incorporate natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, report productivity levels 6 percent higher than those without these elements.

The productivity boost adds up to compelling numbers. According to one example in Cooper’s report, while it can cost about $1,000 to shift the position of a workstation in one office so that an employee’s peripheral vision can take in the window view, the resulting 6 percent increase in the employee’s call processing capacity equaled about a $3,000 return.

Human Spaces Report

Source: Human Spaces Report

Still, only 42 percent of the employees surveyed report having live plants in their offices and 47 percent report having no natural light. “Working in an office is not where we come from,” said Cooper. “Offices are intrinsically antithetical to our nature.” It’s not surprising that the advantages of biophilia in the workplace don’t equate exclusively to the hard measure of productivity gains. Employees in the Robertson-Cooper survey reported a 15 percent increase in creativity, along with a 15 percent higher level of well-being when working in spaces with natural elements—two measures typically associated with job satisfaction and engagement. Perhaps most remarkable about the survey results was their consistency, said Cooper. The countries included in the survey are at varying stages of urbanization, and though some preferred greenery and others water ponds or sunlight, the longing to bring the outside inside and the corresponding boons to productivity, creativity and well-being were universal.

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