Global study – commissioned by Interface – connects levels of employee productivity and well being to office design

“The Human Spaces report into The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace,” commissioned by the global modular flooring experts of Interface and led by renowned organizational psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper, has revealed that employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15 per cent higher level of well-being, are six per cent more productive and 15 per cent more creative overall.

The “Human Spaces” global study of 7,600 office workers from 16 countries examined the impact of the physical office environment on employee well being. It concluded that office design was so important to workers that one-third (33 per cent) of global respondents stated it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere.

Incredibly, design was even more vital in India (67 per cent), Indonesia (62 per cent) and the Philippines (60 per cent) where two-thirds of office workers were significantly influenced by workplace design.


Globally, nearly half (47 per cent) of office employees have no natural light in their working environment, and almost two thirds (58 per cent) have no live plants in their workspace. In Canada, 32 per cent of workers reported having no windows. This was closely followed by Australia and the U.S., with 28 per cent and 27 per cent of workers, respectively, reporting having no windows. Interestingly, these three countries all reported above average levels of stress.

Conversely, workers in Indonesia and India reported some of the highest levels of light and space at 93 per cent and 92 per cent, respectively, and reported some of the lowest levels of unhappiness.

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, says, “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 per cent of workers have no natural light. Yet one-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.”


In terms of working space, nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) of workers said they would feel most productive at their own desk in a solitary office. In terms of having a preference for solo space, Germany, China and Canada reported figures way above the global average, with 59 per cent, 52 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, suggesting they prefer a solitary environment.

On the other hand, 36 per cent of respondents would feel most productive at their own desk in an-open plan office. Interestingly, individual data from certain countries was much higher: Spain (48 per cent); Australia (48 per cent); India (46 per cent); and Brazil (46 per cent) – indicating that collaborative working is much more important to them than the global average.


The data demonstrates that 85 per cent of global office workers surveyed are based in an urban environment (which includes city centre, city suburb, town and downtown) and the largest proportion of respondents spent between 40 to 49 hours per week in the office. Despite city-dominated lives, the research found workers have an inherent affinity for elements that reflect nature.

Cooper adds, “As well as enabling organizations 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 urbanization 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, says, “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 our well-being, productivity and creativity at work. 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 indicates that by incorporating simple design elements which help to create a connection to nature, known as biophilic design, a business could potentially boost the productivity of its employees by 6% – a significant benefit to the bottom line of any company.”


1. Natural light

2. Live indoor plants

3. Quiet working space

4. View of the sea

5. Bright colours


Interface, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial carpet tile. For 41 years, the company has consistently led the industry through innovation, and now leads the industry in environmental sustainability. It is setting the pace for development of modular carpet using materials and processes that take less from the environment, and is well along the path to “Mission Zero,” a 20-year-old company-wide promise to eliminate any negative impact it has on the environment by the year 2020. Interface’s worldwide carpet manufacturing facilities maintain third party registration to the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard, and the company obtained the first-ever Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for the commercial floor covering industry in North America. The company is recognized globally for its commitment to build environmental considerations into its business decisions. 

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