Benefits of Natural Light for a Healthy Workplace

Benefits of Natural Light for a Healthy Workplace

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The nature of work and the workplace has changed a lot in the last few years, as offices have moved to more open concepts, and the COVID-19 pandemic shifted work to remote settings for a lot of people. But no matter where or how you work, natural sources of light are a key ingredient for a healthy, productive workplace or office. In this article, we’ll break down the research on the benefits of natural light in terms of employee health, happiness, and productivity. 

Employees Want More Natural Sources of Light at Work

Workplace perks like gym access or a fancy espresso machine are nice luxuries, but employee surveys consistently show that workers value basic quality of life aspects more. In survey after survey, natural light is one of the most requested aspects of an office. In 2018, a survey of North American employees found that access to natural light is the #1 most desired quality in an office setting, well ahead of perks like on-site cafeterias and gyms. [1]

Natural light adds value to an office space because it improves mood and productivity throughout the day and work week. That fancy espresso machine might brighten your morning a bit, but it doesn’t help much if you’re stuck working in a cramped, dark space for 8+ hours a day. Below, we take a look at some of the surveys and research that show the impact and health benefits of natural light in the office. 

Employees are More Engaged and Productive at Work with Natural Light

The World Green Building Council reports that people feel more engaged with their job when they work in natural light. [2] More engagement leads to better work and happier employees. Giving workers more access to light can be an X-factor that gives your office a competitive edge over the dingy cubicles of your competitors. 

Better Light, More Productivity: A 2018 workplace study found that employees in offices with natural light had 84% less eye strain, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms. [3] "The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity," said Dr. Alan Hedge, the study leader. "As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations." [3]

More Natural Light Sources Equals Fewer Sick Days: It’s not just engagement and productivity. Natural light can actually improve the health and resilience of your workforce. A long-term study found that employees with access to good light and a view took significantly less sick leave than employees without window access. People with windows took an average of 6.5 fewer sick days per year, a full week of work gained with natural light. [4] With data like this, it makes sense to provide employees with as much light and window access as possible, a big paradigm shift away from rewarding only a few with “the corner office.”

Employees are More Alert in Daylight: A Swiss study tested the alertness levels and mental acuity of employees who were exposed to natural daylight in sync with their natural circadian rhythms. They found that workers were more alert in the late afternoon after frequent daylight exposure, and sleepier in the afternoon when they just worked under artificial light. [5] Light isn’t just a workplace perk, it’s a productivity advantage for well-lit offices and a significant disadvantage for offices without windows and views. 

Better Mental Acuity and Work Performance with Natural Light: In the same Swiss study, people also performed significantly better on cognitive tasks after repeated exposure to daylight, and performed worse with artificial light exposure. This aligns with other research on how our body and cells need wavelengths of light for optimal mental acuity and cognitive performance.

The author of the aforementioned study concluded: “Even short-term lighting conditions during the afternoon had an impact on cognitive task performance in the evening.” She added: “Such a relationship could be crucial for workers requiring high attention levels and executive functioning, such as bus drivers, industrial workers in sensitive areas, or air-traffic control.” [5]

The Sleep Benefits of Natural Light in the Workplace: Employees in well-lit offices sleep better too. Neuroscientists at Northwestern University found that employees who work near windows sleep an average of 46 more minutes per night. Employees without windows had more sleep disturbances, and even more physical problems. [6] These findings are backed up by the body of clinical research on natural light and sleep.

Natural Sources of Light Enhance Retail Work SettingsIt’s not just the employees who excel in good lighting. Retail shoppers appear to be more engaged and willing to make purchases in natural light as well. A study of Walmart locations found that stores with skylights had 40% better sales compared to non-skylit stores with the same layout. [7] The bottom line: whether you’re an employee or a shopper, you’re likely to experience the benefits of natural light through improved focus and productivity in settings with lots of natural light. 

Conclusion: Natural Light is Better for Everyone 

Whether you’re in an office, working at home, or just shopping in a store, more natural sources of light will help you perform and feel better. Employers have every incentive to offer their workers more windows, views, and all-day light.

The average American spends over 90% of their time indoors, so getting natural light can be a challenge. [8] When you’re not able to take in the full-spectrum light of the sun, you can supplement your natural light intake with a red light therapy session. Red light therapy treatments allow you to supplement the light you get from your environment with concentrated wavelengths of red and near infrared light. A high-quality light therapy device like a Joovv can help you balance your light intake and maintain a healthy lifestyleand experience the health benefits of natural light.


Sources and References:

[1]  Meister, Jeanne C. Harvard Business Review. The #1 Office Perk? Natural Light. September 2018.

[2]  Green World Building Council. Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building.

[3]  Hedge, Alan. Study: Natural Light is the Best Medicine for the Office. Cision PR Newswire, 2018.

[4]  Elzeyadi, Ihab M. Daylighting-Bias and Biophilia: Quantifying the Impact of Daylighting on Occupant Health. 2011.

[5]  Münch M, Linhart F, Borisuit A, Jaeggi SM, Scartezzini JL. Effects of prior light exposure on early evening performance, subjective sleepiness, and hormonal secretion. Behav Neurosci. 2012 Feb;126(1):196-203.

[6]  Boubekri, M. Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study. J Clin Sleep Med. 2014 Jun 15; 10(6): 603–611.

[7]  Skylighting and Retail Sales: An Investigation into the Relationship Between Daylighting and Human Performance. PGE, 1999.

[8] N E Klepeis, W C Nelson, et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. The Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology. 2001 June.