With restrictions across the country in a state of constant flux, not everyone is ready to jump back into meeting in person. While some planners are eager to get back to “normal,” the long-term adjustment to new protocols and potential risks make some hesitant to gather.
While wearing masks and social distancing can help keep attendees safe, intentional design choices—such as including natureinspired elements and materials and plenty of plants—can also help calm attendees.
“Studies show that access or a view of nature, an experience of nature, lowers blood pressure and stress and improves mood and concentration,” says holistic interior designer Gala Magriñá, owner of Gala Magriñá Design.
Magriñá cites two reasons why nature has these effects on people. One is called Attention Restoration Theory, which is “the idea that natural settings give the brain a break from cognitively exhausting tasks.”
For example, as professionals sit through a day’s worth of meetings, nature can help people’s brains from not getting too overwhelmed.
Magriñá continues: “Nature draws our attention, but it’s an effortless kind of engagement—which they call a soft fascination—and although you’re engaged by it [nature], it still allows the mind a kind of rest and reset.”
The second reason why nature can lower stress is related to the industrial development of the world. Magriñá explains, “We came from nature, we lived in nature, so our bodies relax in pleasant nature surroundings, because that’s where they evolved. Our senses are adapted to plants and trees and foliage, and not necessarily traffic and high rises. That’s from the 20th century, right?”
So, as worries about meeting in-person during the pandemic continue, nature (and nods to nature) may generally help ease stress and tension.
Of course, bringing in plants is the most direct way to incorporate nature into events. However, not all budgets, venues, or planners can do this. Instead, Magriñá suggests displaying imagery of nature at venues with LED and plasma screens, or even playing sounds of nature, such as a babbling brook. Finally, orienting floor plans to maximize exposure to windows can help connect people to natural surroundings.
With these tips, planners can reap the benefits of nature in order to ease attendees’ minds. Whether it’s during a global pandemic or not—having a little greenery around can’t hurt.