Benefits of natural light
There has been a lot of focus recently on improving the work environment for employees with offices boasting interactive spaces with standing desks, Pilates classes and even beer on tap. But improving your mental wellbeing at work may be even more straightforward than that. Which is good news to those now working from home. New studies have found that exposure to natural light not only helps improve your mood but also helps reduce the release of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving us with healthier immune systems. Natural light can help improve your productivity, concentration, energy levels and even help with sleeping.
A new article published in May 2020, studied the difference in sleep patterns of people working in nearly identical offices with the only difference being the lighting. One office had limited natural light and the other allowed optimal sunlight through the electrochromic glazing technology on the windows. The workers were asked to work in each office for a week and to wear a wrist actigraph which measured their sleep. At the end of the second week, the researchers found that both groups of workers slept on average 37 minutes longer when they worked in the office with optima natural lighting. They also found that the positive effects of sunlight grew as the week wore on with scores on their cognitive tests improving each day. At the end of the week, they scored 42 % higher in total. (3)
An HR advisory firm called Future Workplace did a survey and found that the lack of natural light in a work place can have a negative impact on the employees with 47% of employees admitting they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% report feeling gloomy because of the lack of light.
Another study by Cornell University Professor Dr. Alan Hedge found that optimising natural light in an office can significantly improve the health and wellness of the workers. In fact, this research revealed that workers in daylight office environments reported a 51% drop in the incidence of eyestrain, a 63% drop in the incidence of headaches and a 56% reduction in drowsiness. (1)
An ideal work space would make use of both natural and artificial lighting by using windows, skylights, glass doors etc. The exposure to natural light is especially important in winter months when Vitamin D deficiency becomes a risk. It can be difficult and expensive to change the architecture and design of an office, especially for those working from home. The use of daylight bulbs can be an appropriate alternative when the natural lighting options are limited. It is equally important to take breaks outside in the fresh air with direct exposure to sunlight. Sometimes even looking out the window can have a positive effect on our mental wellbeing.
- Hedge A, Nou D, Worker Reactions to Electrochromic and Low e Glass Office Windows, Ergonomics International Journal, vol 2:4, 2018
- Allen J et all, Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol 124:26, 2016
- Mohamed Boubekri et al. The Impact of Optimized Daylight and Views on the Sleep Duration and Cognitive Performance of Office Workers, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol 17:9, May 2020