International Day of Happiness and the importance of ecological wellbeing

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Are you happy in your job? Do you feel fulfilled and that you are contributing to a greater good?

It’s International Day of Happiness on the 20th of March, and this reminds us to celebrate making the world a kinder place to be, not just for people, but for the environment we live in too. With so much of our time spent at work, it’s not surprising that people expect the work environment to also boost our wellbeing.

The pandemic has disrupted the working world, as people re-evaluate and seek a better work life balance through hybrid working and flexible hours. However, there seems to be a much deeper and stronger trend which is now making people reconsider their career choices.

Recent research is showing that many people are choosing to work for companies who not only care about environmental and social inequities, but also step up to the mark to really make a difference. Climate and equalities campaigner, Paul Polman, interviewed thousands of people in the US and UK to understand the way we think about work. 

He found that two thirds of people want to work for a company that’s having a positive impact on the planet. With people increasingly concerned about the climate and biodiversity crisis, and the urgency needed to deal with these issues, it is not surprising that we expect businesses – our employers – to show leadership.

This trend toward higher environmental standards is also reflected in consumer spending habits, with reports of sharp rises in the number of people who’ve adopted a more sustainable lifestyle. In a survey of 10,000 UK consumers, Boston Consulting Group found that three quarters (76%) of consumers are trying to play their part in sustainability and expect brands to do the same. Whilst some 30% of consumers have even chosen to vote with their feet by switching brands and calling out laggards.

Unfortunately, it does appear that most employees feel their employers are not doing enough and, even worse, almost half of those interviewed felt their leaders are only driven by their own gains. It is perhaps not surprising then, that a third of employees say they have already resigned from a company which didn’t share their values.

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With the number of job vacancies reaching record highs in 2022, employers need to work harder to recruit and retain the best staff. Whilst improved pay, working conditions, and greater wellbeing remain high on the agenda, employers would do well to take a stronger stance on the environment and to actively communicate this. The opportunity is clear, with more engaged and empowered staff helping the company change for the better, and with customers able to see the differences made and choosing to buy in. Oh, and of course, all of this will help to make a better planet for everyone.

At BioScapes® we’re all about making it easier to bring wildlife back into our human focused environment, creating spaces where plants, animals and fungi can thrive and where we can reconnect with nature. We know that access to nature is great for our wellbeing. The sight of a butterfly, the smell of a wildflower or the song of a bird lifts our spirits and provides inspiration. We’ve also found that by working with businesses, relatively small and simple changes to outdoor spaces can result in a rapid boost for biodiversity, with immediate benefits for both customers and staff.

There is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate the benefits from nature, and in recent years, studies have shown the advantages of bringing nature into the working environment. Reductions in stress, improvements in concentration, cognitive functioning, and enhanced mood, all help to build a greater sense of belonging and boost productivity.

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These outcomes can quickly be linked to improved operation and financial return for the company. Studies have shown that when employees are happy, productivity can increase by 31%, and sales increase by 37%. What’s not to like?

Simply having a view of nature from a desk can improve concentration. A study of call centre staff found that those with views of nature handled calls 6%–7% faster than those with no views. The Attention restoration theory tries to explain these effects by pointing out that whilst focused thinking is very tiring on the brain, the wide diversity of stimuli derived from nature provides a restorative sensory environment that alleviates this attention fatigue. Access to a richer environment, therefore, increases the benefits. In a survey of 3,000 employees, researchers concluded that just 29 minutes spent outdoors resulted in a 45% increase in productivity.

To receive the greatest benefits from nature, employers must look to create ecological diversity. Don’t settle for close mown grass, lollypop trees and shapeless shrubby borders, or even worse, concrete paving and artificial turf. Encourage your staff to challenge this thinking, embrace the weeds and wildflowers, nurture trees to provide a cooling shade and create borders rich in colour, structure and the smells and buzz of life.

To see testimonials from organisations who’ve worked with us to enhance their outdoor corporate spaces, click here.

Terry Smithson BSc in Zoology, MSc in Ecology

Terry is our in-house ecologist. He’s worked in the nature conservation sector for over 25 years and loves all things wildlife, especially hoverflies, beetles, mammals and birds. He’s helped design our BioScapes products so they maximise the recovery of wildlife and he’s happy to offer advice to individuals, schools and businesses on how to boost biodiversity.

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