AstraZeneca: A well-being-first biophilic work environment

AstraZeneca has relocated its Finnish offices to the business and innovation hub of Espoo’s Keilaniemi region. The brand new building features biophilic interiors where the science-led design brings nature indoors, creating a workplace that optimizes functionality while prioritizing employee wellness.

ESPOO, Finland (July 11th, 2023) AstraZeneca has installed the latest generation of living walls from Finnish indoor nature technology company, Naava, as part of the workplace-wellbeing-first design of their newly relocated Finnish offices. The pharmaceutical company has around 100 employees based in Finland, with the new premises located in the Keilaniemi region of Espoo. The installation extends Naava’s ongoing collaboration with AstraZeneca which began in 2016.

One major goal of the relocation was to reinforce the company’s community culture by attracting people back to more frequent on-site work as part of a continued hybrid work model. This attraction extends to the offices’ nature-inspired interior, purposefully designed to promote comfort and well-being by harnessing biophilic design’s stress-relieving, productivity-enhancing effects.

“We’re proud to unveil our new offices in Finland. We believe the site reflects the culture of our workforce, and our commitment to providing our people with the best possible working environments,” says Jaakko Viitala, Country Director for Finland at AstraZeneca. “The interior design and even the location itself were chosen after listening carefully to peoples’ preferences. As such, we’ve succeeded in creating a working environment where people feel happy and inspired, and their well-being is a priority.”

The biophilic interior includes 11 green walls located in larger communal areas and meeting rooms, and as functional space dividers between work zones. The walls’ living plants purify the air, removing harmful chemicals to give an indoor air quality equivalent to that of the Nordic forest, as well as providing calming, stress-relieving visual, ambient and acoustic stimuli.

“As humans, we’re not biologically programmed to spend our lives indoors; we are naturally and instinctively an outdoor species, and our affinity with nature is in-built. It’s little wonder that when we spend so long confined to sterile, over-sanitized offices, our well-being begins to suffer,” says Eeva Niemelä, Head of Project Business & Design at Naava. “We become fatigued, our productivity is reduced, and our stress levels increase. Reconnecting people with nature indoors alleviates these effects; it is restorative, elevates our mood, and promotes the creative thinking we need to succeed in our daily work tasks.”

One interior design challenge was to create a balanced environment catering for different working styles. Employees wished for a combination of collaborative spaces and designated quiet thinking zones, with a free-flowing, natural transition between areas that still felt cohesive and inclusive.

“Most traditional office designs no longer meet the changing needs of employees, and are unable to accommodate new work behaviours,” Eeva Niemelä continues. “Naava worked closely with AstraZeneca to understand what working environments people find most comfortable. We then created several design iterations using 2D floor plans and 3D renderings to bring the ideas to life. The final design was implemented to create the most human-friendly environment possible.”

The office’s Keilaniemi location is itself a balance between technology and nature. The area is a business and high-tech hub, home to several of Finland’s most well-known global companies as well as many of its fastest-growing startups. In addition to its commercial importance, Keilaniemi’s scenic environment incorporates several walking and cycling paths, strengthening the location’s popularity with AstraZeneca’s employees.

“The office location is more attractive for many reasons. We’ve moved from overlooking a busy motorway to an area with sea views that is easily accessible on foot or by bike,” Viitala explains. “These additional nature-inspired benefits all contribute to creating a workplace experience built on well-being, where our talented people can thrive. The new location is also very well connected, promoting the sense of community alongside other leading innovators,” Viitala concludes.


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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