Is Timber the Key to a Healthy Workplace?

“New research highlights that timber in the workplace increases mental wellness and productivity”

Timber is the key to a healthy office. That’s the major takeaway from a new report Workplaces, Wellness and Wood from strategic research firm Pollinate and the University of Canberra. The report, prepared for Forest & Wood Products Australia, doesn’t go quite as far as saying that timber cures all ills – but the impact it has on wellness and productivity in the workplace is undeniable.

Researchers were investigating biophilia – the theory that natural surroundings bolster people’s sense of wellness. A significant finding is that the more wooden surfaces a worker could see, the higher their satisfaction and wellbeing – it’s a clear indication that biophilia is more than just a pleasant intuition.

Despite the positivity of these findings, the overall picture for workers is depressing. According to the study, fewer than 50% “had access to nature at work,” with 46% spending as little as one hour outdoors during the working week. 47% had access to natural light, 36% were surrounded by outdoor plants, and 26% said they couldn’t see a single natural-looking wood surface.

Associate Professor Andrew Schirmer made the following comment: “We know it’s good for us to spend time outdoors interacting with nature, but with people spending so much time indoors, there’s increasing recognition of the potential benefits of bringing nature into the workplace and the home.

“The academic world is becoming increasingly switched on to biophilia as an area warranting real research and attention, and some engineering degrees are starting to include it as a subject.

“Importantly, wood is a particularly useful tool for bringing nature into the workplace in situations where it is not feasible to retro-fit other changes, such as increased natural light.”

The impact of timber surfaces was shocking: 80% of people surveyed who had access to 8 or more such surfaces reported that they were “satisfied or very satisfied” at work, while just 53% who did not have access to any reported the same level of satisfaction.

This effect was magnified by the presence of other natural elements, such as office plants and natural light. It also included better personal productivity, mood, concentration, clarity, confidence and optimism.