HomeThe GenZ LabHow to enhance Gen Z happiness and well-being by embracing nature in the workplace

How to enhance Gen Z happiness and well-being by embracing nature in the workplace

  • Thursday, June 13, 2024
  • JobTeaser

As organizations strive to prioritize Gen Z well-being and satisfaction, understanding the intrinsic relationship between nature and happiness becomes imperative.

The importance of nature for Gen Z 

The importance of integrating nature into workplace policy for fostering happiness and well-being among Gen Z employees cannot be overstated. Why? 

First of all, Gen Z is a generation deeply rooted in digital technology. Research indicates that Gen Z spends more than 10 hours a day engaged with digital content, often using multiple devices simultaneously. And when they engage with this content they will often be indoors.

Furthermore, research also indicates that Gen Z is grappling with higher rates of anxiety and depression, a trend attributed to various factors including diminished face-to-face interactions, intensive use of digital content, mounting apprehensions about pressing global challenges and the search for meaning. The numbers have risen to an unprecedented high level with 75% of Gen Z employees saying they experience symptoms of depression and 77% of Gen Z reporting feeling depressed because they feel alone. 

The last child in the woods

In 2016, Richard Louv’s published a book called "Last Child in the Woods". It created a ripple in the environmental community, highlighting the alarming trend of "nature deficit disorder" and revealing that children were spending 50% less time outdoors compared to previous generations with a negative impact on their well-being. Those children have now become students and have  set their first steps in the workplace. 

Nature on the other hand has a positive impact on our well-being and happiness. We know for example that nature has played a critical role in our mental health during the pandemic with many more people taking the time to take a walk outside. When we are more connected with nature, we are usually happier in life and more likely to report feeling our lives are worthwhile. Nature can generate many positive emotions, such as calmness, joy, and creativity and can facilitate concentration in and outside the workplace. 

The case of Finland

The Nordic countries have consistently held the top positions on the global happiness index over the years. Recent research conducted in Finland, oven cited as "the happiest country in the world" reveals that Gen Z in Finland demonstrates a profound affinity for nature, viewing it as essential for their happiness and overall well-being. Even amidst challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, their connection to nature deepened, emphasizing its role as a source of pride and identity.

The Finnish experience offers a multifaceted understanding of happiness, emphasizing the interplay between positive affect, enjoyable activities, and the pursuit of meaning and self-realization. This multifaceted perspective underscores the complexity of well-being and yields valuable insights for crafting workplace policies that better cater to the holistic needs of Gen Z.

Integrating nature into these policies can prove to be a potent measure for enhancing well-being, constituting a pivotal component of a comprehensive Gen Z well-being strategy.

Integrating nature in Gen Z workplace policy

Incorporating elements of nature into the workplace environment has been shown to act as a catalyst for enhancing employee well-being and productivity. Let's dive into some practical ideas: 

Biophilic design 

Biophilic design principles, represent a cutting-edge approach to architectural and environmental design, integrating natural elements such as abundant natural light, lush greenery, and organic textures seamlessly into the built environment. This holistic design philosophy aims to reconnect individuals with nature, fostering a sense of harmony and well-being within indoor spaces.

Research has demonstrated the profound positive effects of biophilic design on individuals' psychological well-being and cognitive function. Exposure to natural elements within built environments has been linked to enhanced mood, reduced stress levels, and improved overall satisfaction with surroundings. For example, ample natural light not only creates visually pleasing environments but also regulates circadian rhythms, promoting better sleep quality and overall health.

In addition to enhancing mood and cognitive function, biophilic design principles can also foster a deeper connection to nature, which is particularly beneficial in urban settings where access to natural landscapes may be limited. By bringing elements of the outdoors inside, employees are provided with opportunities for relaxation, reflection, and rejuvenation, ultimately promoting a greater sense of well-being and connection to the environment.

Gen Z is renowned for its strong eco-consciousness, with a staggering 82% expressing deep concerns about the state of the planet. This generation actively seeks out employment opportunities with companies committed to advancing sustainability initiatives. Hence, investing in biophilic design not only enhances the workplace environment but also presents a significant opportunity to align with Gen Z's values and aspirations.

By incorporating natural elements into architectural plans, such as maximizing natural daylight through strategic window and skylight placement, buildings can significantly reduce their reliance on artificial lighting, thereby slashing energy consumption and associated costs. Furthermore, integrating natural ventilation systems enhances indoor air quality, reducing the need for mechanical ventilation and minimizing the building's environmental footprint even further.

Green spaces

Furthermore, the presence of green spaces within the workplace not only enhances aesthetic appeal but also provides opportunities for relaxation, stress reduction, and social interaction among your Gen Z employees. Studies have shown that access to green spaces can promote physical activity, improve mental health, and foster a sense of connection to the natural world, all of which contribute to enhanced well-being and productivity in the workplace.

Furthermore, the incorporation of greenery, such as indoor plants and living walls, not only adds aesthetic appeal but also improves air quality by filtering pollutants and increasing oxygen levels. Studies have shown that exposure to greenery indoors can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and concentration, contributing to a more conducive work or living environment.

Nature-inspired activities

Nature-inspired initiatives, such as wellness programs, outdoor activities, and community gardening projects, can further enrich the workplace experience and cultivate a culture of health, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. By incorporating these initiatives into workplace policies, you can create environments that nourish the mind, body, and spirit, fostering a sense of purpose, belonging, and fulfillment.

There are a diverse range of activities and programs designed to connect employees with nature and promote holistic wellness: 

  • Wellness programs centered around nature-inspired activities, such as mindfulness walks in nearby parks, outdoor yoga sessions, or guided meditation amidst natural landscapes, provide employees with opportunities to rejuvenate and recharge during the workday. These activities not only alleviate stress and improve mental health but also foster a deeper connection with the natural world, enhancing overall well-being.
  • Community gardening projects, such as the urban gardens in Copenhagen, offer a hands-on opportunity for employees to engage with nature while promoting sustainable practices. By cultivating green spaces within or near the workplace, employees can participate in growing fresh produce, fostering a sense of ownership and pride in their surroundings. Additionally, community gardening projects promote teamwork, collaboration, and community engagement, strengthening interpersonal connections and fostering a sense of belonging among colleagues.
  • Integrating nature-inspired initiatives into workplace policies also aligns with broader sustainability goals and environmental commitments. For example, you can encourage your gen Z employees to participate in volunteer activities such as tree planting events or beach cleanups, contributing to local environmental conservation efforts while fostering a sense of purpose and civic responsibility.
  • Nature-inspired team-building retreats or outdoor excursions, provide opportunities for employees to bond and collaborate in natural settings. These experiences not only promote team cohesion and communication but also inspire creativity and innovation by fostering a change of scenery and perspective.

In essence, embracing nature in workplace policy not only enhances employee well-being and happiness but also resonates with Gen Z's desire to work for environmentally conscious companies and find more meaning at work. 

By prioritizing sustainability through innovative design practices, you can attract and retain top talent while simultaneously demonstrating their commitment to making a positive impact on the planet for generations to come.