Ditch the Plastic Plants: Forward-Thinking Companies Are Getting Back to Nature

If only life were like our favorite stock photography and we could commune with nature or bask in the sunshine when we worked. Instead, the majority of office workers sit enclosed beneath fluorescent lights, faced with the glare of computer screens and the electric hum of HVAC systems, a considerable distance from the nearest window that doesn’t even open anyway.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Forward-thinking companies are looking beyond the old corporate staple of artificial plants to bring some real nature to us, incorporating the outdoors into office architecture and design. It’s a good thing, too, since there’s research that says being outdoors increases feelings of well-being, reducing stress hormones and your heart rate.

Same goes for the effect of natural light and a bit of nature, whether it’s exposed wood beams, nature scenes in photos or leafy green plants. It can all help boost creativity and mood. Knotel client Segment for instance, made indoor plants and waterfalls part of its signature office branding — not to mention it’s good for morale too, says Jeff Goldman, Segment’s head of real estate and workplace operations.

*Google *will let the sun shine into its new Mountain View headquarters, which is currently in the works. Its campus will incorporate nature, with greenhouses and tent-like buildings with translucent rooftop ceilings — both of which blend the outdoors with indoor space. The rest of the campus will embrace nature by reducing water and energy use, creating wildlife habitats, restoring waterways into the San Francisco Bay, and incorporating bike and pedestrian paths.

Amazon designed its Seattle headquarters with something called “The Spheres,” a place where employees can think and work differently surrounded by nature. We’re talking a lot of nature: 40,000 plants from more than 30 countries that cover 4,000 square-foot walls. Living wall panels also help clean interior airspace and provide natural cooling and insulation for buildings.

Apple, too, will incorporate towering glass walls in its new “spaceship” headquarters. The Apple park will incorporate more than 9,000 trees on what was once an asphalt parking lot. Said Apple CEO Tim Cook last year: “It’s designed to be transparent with nature and bring the outside in.”

Meanwhile, other companies are putting their own spin on indoor nature. San Francisco software firm <strong>Zendesk</strong> went the same route with a two-story moss wall, soft window seats, light wood beams and green paint. The help-desk service company will also include an indoor garden in its new Dublin office.

The point being, a little nature can go a long way. Even if it’s just incorporating the outdoors as part of employee culture, lest you end up like “worried beard man” here.