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The biophilic office, what it is and why it works

What is biophilia?
Biophilia is a term derived from the Greek language meaning "love of living objects". The biophilic design of buildings and office interiors, is the architect’s commitment to bringing the benefits of nature into buildings.For decades, psychologists and sociologists have tried to explain man's innate desire to connect with nature. This relationship between man and nature has been called biophilia and is the biological evolution of millions of years. However, the modern and rapid urbanization (for most part) of the planet has led humanity to distance itself from nature

What is a biophilic design?

In today's society, the biophilic design can be integrated into various sectors, such as health care, retail, education and of course, office space.

We also have the ability to understand the current impact that biophilia has on the economy. Research has proven that spaces that are structured not to include any form of nature, may lead to negative consequences for human health, child development, social security and job satisfaction.
All of the above are directly related to the benefits of business, society, but also health.

A misconception concerning the biophilic design is that it is limited to enriching the space with plants and shrubs. But a biophilic office design is more than that.

A biophilic office should aim to increase natural light, use different colors and combine different natural materials such as wood, metal, and stone. The biophilic office design is complete when complimented with the presence of plants, such as the creation of "living" walls.
Particularly, living walls are the new trend in building design and contribute to thermal insulation and purification of the atmosphere.
Ultimately, it has been proven that natural elements, when transported within the workplace, improve well-being and the overall health of employees.

How the biophilic design reduces labor costs in the corporate environment

The University of Oregon (Elzeyadi, 2011) conducted a study on the biophilic hypothesis* when it is applied to an administrative office establishment. The study concluded that workers who had a view of trees and greenery were not only more satisfied than those who had a view of the street or buildings or had no view at all, but also their own behavior in the office had improved.
Employees who had a view of greenery requested 57 hours of sick leave in the duration of one year, as opposed to the rest who asked for 68 hours.

In another example, a call center in California invested $1,000 (€ 877) in each employee to ensure that all employees had access to the provided view. Their productivity savings were estimated at $2,990 (€ 2,606) for each employee.
By placing greenery and plants in the workspace oxygen levels increased, which in turn increased employee concentration.

Furthermore, the biophilic design has been shown to improve productivity, creativity, well-being as well as maintaining employee skillset.

In the past, the prevailing concept was that empty spaces were the ideal place to increase productivity, because nothing would distract employees, who would hypothetically remain more focused on their work. However, recent research has disproved this theory.

Undoubtedly a biophilic office design requires a larger initial investment when compared to a simple office building design, however it has immediate benefits on health and productivity.
Research has also found that people who work in a more natural environment tend to take their breaks within their office area. Thus, the biophilic design has a direct correlation to employee satisfaction.

Six principles of the biophilic office

These are the six basic principles for a most effective design of a biophilic office.
1. Environmental elements: natural elements such as plants, warm earthy tones, liquid elements, natural light, animals and natural materials.
2. Natural shapes and forms: architecture consisting of curved lines, arches and domes.
3. Natural patterns and processes: stimuli that fuse experiences by igniting the senses or that signal the passage of time. For example. different lighting for different times of the day.
4. Natural light: increased use of light in all its forms - warm, cool, with shapes or filters – which varies depending on the use of each space.
5. Association of space with history: placing the office space within the framework of a larger picture, intertwined with history, culture, geography or spirituality.
6. Human-nature relationship: elements that reflect how our relationship with nature has been shaped. A subtle invitation of curiosity, connection, awe, discovery and shelter.

The general benefits of the biophilic design

In the post-pandemic era, work and workplaces are set to change dramatically. To date we note increasing feelings of stress and loneliness in individuals, as a result of reduced interaction between colleagues and clients. Contact with biophilic elements can reduce stress, blood pressure and stabilize heart rate, making a direct impact on employee performance.

Individuals gain greater job satisfaction and feel more connected to the workplace. For the company in the long run, this translates to healthier, happier, motivated employees.  
All of the above lead with mathematical precision to skill maintenance as well as the minimization of absences.

Large companies design biophilic workplaces

A number of companies have now adopted a more biophilic approach to their workplaces.
Three glass domes ("Spheres") have been built in Amazon's new Seattle office, covering a forest of 40,000 plants.

Exposure to natural elements is known to make people happier and healthier.

The International Living Future Institute windows are wide and employees have more access to natural light and views of the outdoors. The aura created by ventilation systems helps maintain staff alert.

These office spaces include corridors that excite employee curiosity and highlight an "exploratory" attitude, which also contributes to the improvement of their physical condition. Finally, the element of water helps to reduce stress and blood pressure.

Inside the Etsy offices, one of the largest companies in online retail business, employees sit in chairs that resemble a cocoon which is just another way of getting in touch with nature.

According to Google when employees are exposed to more natural light and other biophilic elements then they feel more focused, more creative and are therefore more productive.

Difficulties of the biophilic design

Although humanity wants to return to a more natural world, modern life seems to prevent it. Recent economic and social changes have distanced people from all things green. 55% of the world's population lives in urban areas. According to the United Nations, that percentage is expected to reach 68% by 2050.
As cities become densely populated, builders and architects will have to face increased demands for more workspace and most companies will opt for minimalistic designs, which offer more space and fit more offices - employees. However, this is a short-term solution, which will ultimately damage people's productivity and welfare.

According to a Harvard Business Review, 47% of employees feel tired due to lack of natural light, while 43% feel melancholic. Similarly, further research has shown that potted plants can lower blood pressure and stress.
Biophilic planning is becoming more and more important, because stress-related disorders are increasing daily.

Businesses need to consider how to maintain a biophilic environment and how to assess the potential risk of increasing allergic symptoms. Additionally, as also explained above, as a whole, a biophilic design and the natural elements it introduces to the workplace are beneficial in many ways.

The use of sunlight and natural or green elements will not only improve the appearance of the workspace, it will also make employees more creative, productive and happy.

At Vios we have integrated all research and scientific data on biophilic design, making us the first biophilic co-working workspace in Greece.

Come and meet us in the center of Athens and witness the future of work at first hand.

Effective and beneficial company meetings for everyone

What makes a meeting effective? According to Atlassian, an effective meeting is one that will gather a certain number of people to a physical or digital space, for a very specific reason. The meeting should be open to dialogue and should lead to a tangible result.

The purpose of a meeting should be to focus on the discussion that takes place here and now, rather than being an out of dated communication via email threads.


The fewer the better

Calendly made a list of those who should be present in the meetings:

Agenda of the day

The most vital requirement for a successful meeting, according to the NY times, is its agenda. It is very important to have one in any form (hardcopy, written on the board or discussed at the beginning of the meeting) so that the purpose of the meeting is clear. The agenda works as a compass to the conversation.


The final purpose of the meeting

An agenda is crucial so that the meeting remains on topic throughout its course. Equally important, however, is its ultimate goal. The agenda can only describe its goal-oriented process. According to McKinsey, we often associate meetings with the subject on the agenda and not with our actual purpose.

How many times have we found ourselves in the midst of clarifying that the meeting is taking place in order for us to exchange information and knowledge and to discuss or conclude on a decision?


Time management in meetings

There are four things that can go wrong with time management:

1.    The meeting starts late

2.    The meeting ends late

3.    A single topic dominates the entire meeting

4.    The meeting is too long and participants lose focus

Psychology Today defines time management as the ability of a person to plan and control how time is spent in a day in order to achieve daily goals.


The four functionalities of time management

According to the Project Management Quarterly, time management consists of four basic functions:

1.    Planning: you need to know how to plan your day, your meetings and how you and your team can accomplish set goals. Project managers need to consider issues or obstacles that may arise so that they can make sure that enough time is provided.

2.    Scheduling: managers who are quick to realize the pressure of time, try to adjust scheduling accordingly. Project managers need to understand what needs to be done, what is considered a priority, who can do it and when.

3.    Monitoring: proper time management is about good communication between team members. Part of monitoring is frequently checking the stage of the project and whether it responds to the schedule. A project manager must see how much time is spent on activities, tasks, and all things counterproductive.

4.    Audit: Without exception the time available is the same for everyone. How we each spend it is up to us. Project managers must exercise control so that each task is completed on time. Additionally, any decisions made during a project should not affect its deadline.


Action plan

Each meeting should outcome an action plan. This should be clear, specific and aimed at particular team members. According to Slack the action plan should be channeled towards the right people with specific deadlines. The progress of each task should be monitored during execution. Auditing makes people take their work seriously but also reminds them of their commitments. Furthermore, it demonstrates that their contribution and the time they spend in the meeting is positively evaluated.


Establishing rules

Quite often a discussion can be diverted for various reasons. It is very important that guidelines are created so that meetings are conducted in a civilized and calm manner, even if conflicts arise.

·       assume the other person's positive intention

·       keep possible differences in mind

·       ensure clarification and completion

·       if you detect something, talk about it

·       silence means disagreement


Allow departures

It is important for team members to feel free to determine whether they are useful in a meeting. If someone wants to leave in the middle of the meeting, allow it. This is one of Elon Musk’s basic principles. It is not wrong for someone to leave a meeting if they think they have nothing to offer the team. Many times, if the agenda has 10 different tasks and some members are only related to one of them then it makes sense for them to excuse themselves and return to their duties.

Request feedback

It may sound obvious but how often do you ask your co-workers to give you some feedback after a meeting? Approach them one by one, send a questionnaire or set an action plan to follow-up. Ask if the meeting was helpful or if there are suggestions for improvement in the future. This way you will be able to organize meetings so that they are more productive for all participants.

What’s the cost of a renting a private office? We ran the numbers for you

Coworking offers a lot of advantages, one of which is the cost. We’re talking about the comparative cost of renting your own office versus having access to a private office you can rent on a daily, weekly or yearly basis in a coworking space such as Vios, where you can enjoy all the perks of a private office without having to worry about the upfront costs or maintenance costs of an office rental.

The initial capital one must expend for a small 37m² office in the center of Athens in the first year alone – simply to cover the rent, deposit, operating expenses and office equipment – is about € 8,690 or € 724 per month.

Offices for rent in central Athens

We looked at 22 places and called up to inquire about them. We were looking for a space with two separate rooms – one to be used as an office and a conference room with natural light to be used for meetings – that would not require painting or repairs.


By way of example, we found a 34 m2 office with a monthly rent of € 280

Building Maintenance - Water - Electricity - Landline
The building maintenance fees were relatively cheap, at € 50 per month.
We calculated that the cost of electricity (lighting heating/cooling, water, internet and landline would come up to € 110 € per month.

Cleaning Fees
Finally, we added up some necessary fixed costs: hiring a cleaner 4 times a month, as well as the cost of cleaning supplies, napkins, paper towels, and coffee. For these we estimated a monthly cost of € 100 per month.
The total monthly cost was  € 540 per month. 

Office Equipment
An office also needs some minimal equipment that is necessary for its operation. We tried to be as economical as possible.

A simple rented office needs to have, at the very least, the following equipment: 

  • An office desk with drawer, € 200

  • A comfortable office chair, € 90

  • A table for the meeting room, € 300

  • 6 simple chairs, € 300

  • 1 printer/scanner/photocopier, € 120

  • 2 telephones,  € 90

  • 1 large projection screen, € 300

  • Office lighting equipment, € 70

  • 1 small fridge, € 120

  • 1 microwave, € 100

  • 1 simple office storage cabinet, € 140

  • 1 set of tableware, i.e., plates, cutlery, € 60

  • Power strip 40€

Total cost € 1,930
In other words, the cost of renting a basic office in the center of Athens for the first year – just to cover rent, deposit, operating costs and equipment – is approximately € 8.690 or 724 € per month. We should note that we have not taken into account the time one has to devote for setting up and organizing the office.

What amenities does a Vios private office in the center of Athens provide?
A private office at the Vios coworking space is equipped with all of the above, of a higher quality, as well as offering:

Biophysical design that has been WELL-certified. The WELL Building Standard aims to enhance health, wellness and performance, using the principles applied by industry behemoths such as Google

  • Access to gym, garden, roof terrace, professional kitchen, massage area, yoga/personal training area, concentration/quiet space with a view of Lycabettus Hill

  • Professional meeting room

  • Changing rooms and showers

  • Daily cleaning and disinfection service

  • Unlimited coffee

  • Healthy food

  • Fiber-optic internet connection and back-up connection

  • Front desk service

  • Areas reserved for organizing training sessions or corporate events

  • Parking space (next to the building)

  • Security

  • Opportunities to grow your business from one day to the next

You can have access to all the above starting from only € 245 per month, that is, 66% cheaper than renting a private office!

Before renting an office in Athens, spend half an hour to visit Vios.

Even if you are almost 100% certain of your choice, or if a real estate agent has found you the "perfect" workplace for your company, we
would love to invite you to come by our premises for half an hour to get acquainted with Vios’ office solutions.

You will have the opportunity to see first-hand what the future of work looks like and experience a modern office design that aims to increase productivity and creativity in the workplace.