The introduction of natural elements, such as wood, to workplace environments is associated with increased feelings of wellbeing and higher productivity, highlights a new research report.

New research highlights the link between natural materials such as timber and heightened productivity. Credit: Creative Commons

The ‘Workplaces: Wellness + Wood = Productivity’ report highlights how wood as a natural material provides a connection to nature and therefore improves physical and mental wellbeing. Internationally, studies have demonstrated this relationship in offices, schools and hospitals.

In the context of increasing urbanisation and declining exposure to nature, market research agency Pollinate undertook this large-scale study, investigating the relationship between exposure to wood in the workplace and workers’ reported wellbeing.

The report is based on the results of an online survey of 1000 ‘typical’ Australians working in indoor environments. The sample was recruited via an accredited market research panel and structured to reflect Australia’s indoor working population.

According to WoodSolutions, the implications of this are both broad and exciting and should inform the design of every new and refurbished office fit-out, in addition to providing the impetus to rethink the furniture and decor of existing offices.

WoodSolutions is an industry initiative designed to provide independent, non-proprietary information about timber and wood products to professionals and companies involved in building design and construction.

WoodSolutions is resourced by Forest & Wood Products Australia Ltd (FWPA), a not for profit company that provides national research and development and promotional services to the Australian forest and wood products industry.

Applying the findings to workplaces, ranging from corporate and government offices to home offices, has the potential to create happier, more productive workplaces with reduced absenteeism.

This research also complements international studies that have suggested that more wood and other natural materials in educational environments can lead to similar results, with indicators being higher academic marks and better student behavior. Overseas studies have also shown benefits to hospital patients associated with increased exposure to natural elements in their environments.

Canberra University associate professor Jacki Schirmer describes this research as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence that she has seen for such a proposition.

“What I found and got really excited about was that there’s a really strong association between the presence of wood and wellbeing. I’ve rarely seen a data set or a study which has shown such a clear link,” highlights Schirmer.