leadforensics Should workplaces embrace biophilic gyms to boost employees' health and wellbeing?
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Should workplaces embrace biophilic gyms to boost employees' health and wellbeing?

Companies can inspire productivity, profit and improved health and wellbeing among their staff by introducing biophilic amenities such as green fitness centres into their workplaces.

That is the view of Despina Katsikakis, a leading workplace design consultant, who claims that the cost of such changes is “negligible when compared the benefits it brings for the organisation, its staff and the economy.”

She made the comments during a panel discussion recently held at Biofit – the pop-up health club in London described as “the world's first biophilic gym.” The role of green leisure environments, particularly health clubs, in improving quality of life both in and out of work was the main topic of conversation.

“We need active design where people can be inspired and regenerate,” Katsikakis said. “To attract top staff, companies have to think about what workers demand. They want to feel that their knowledge development and health and wellness is supported. That means there’s a need for well thought through and activated amenities.

“That’s not just putting a couple of treadmills in a leftover space in the basement, but rather creating something that brings inspiration, delight, respite and helps people do their best work and improve their life.”

“We should understand that 90 per cent of the cost of any business is people and 10 per cent is real estate and other costs,” she added. “Companies typically squeeze out money from the 10 per cent, but don't care that the 90 per cent are heavily impacted. But consider that absenteeism costs the UK workplace £16bn per annum, and £9.8bn of that is due to stress related illnesses from working in poor environments. The cost of doing things differently, by reconnecting us with nature and one another, is nothing compared to that.”

Katsikakis, who is also a senior adviser to wellness developer Delos, stated that movement, interaction and exercise can particularly improve the health of employees. “Eighty-five per cent of the world’s workers work in high density urban environments and tend to spend 90 per cent of their time indoors,” she said. “Over 80 per cent of this time is spent sitting down, meaning 70 per cent of the world’s workers are disengaged and uninspired and not contributing their best”.

She also cited research – first published by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Los Angeles – that workers who sit for three hours a day will see their life expectancy reduced by two years.

The founder of Biofit, Matt Morley is seeking partners to rollout the concept – pitched as “an organic gym concept for big city life – across the hospitality, wellness, residential real estate and corporate office sectors. The London pop-up, designed by landscape architect Lily Jencks, was a prototype to demonstrate the benefits of working out amid natural vegetation, colours, materials, shapes, scents and sounds.

Exercise equipment is made from recycled ‘green’ materials and the texture, aroma and sounds in the gym have also been selected to create links to the natural world. Workouts avoid “the linear, repetitious stuff with machinery, mirrors and dumbbells in favour of getting people to interact and move in a number of mindful ways that connect breathing and body and mind and muscles.”

Morley has teamed up with not-for-profit fitness organisation ukactive and researchers from the University of Essex to show how activity that takes place in a natural environment, even indoors, has a positive effect on health and wellbeing, specifically by improving self-esteem, mood and stress-coping mechanisms.

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Companies can inspire productivity, profit and improved health and wellbeing among their staff by introducing biophilic amenities such as green fitness centres into their workplaces.
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Biofit founder Matt Morley is seeking partners to rollout 'organic gym concept for big city life' across several sectors / Jack Emmerson
McLean Events (Spatec/WHiSPA/SIBEC)
McLean Events (Spatec/WHiSPA/SIBEC)

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