Blog - How Natural Light Affects Employee Health

How Natural Light Affects Employee Health

There is something about a bright, sunny day that puts an extra spring in the step and brings a smile to one’s face. Many office workers spend as much as 90% of their time indoors, and bringing natural light into the workplace can affect their mood and physical health.

Studies have proven there are many benefits of natural light in the workplace, including improved employee well-being and an increase in productivity of 2% to 16% in office environments. Let’s examine five areas of employee health that benefit from natural light and then explore six ways to bring more natural light into the office.

Sleep and circadian rhythms are affected by natural light

Sunlight and darkness help human bodies establish a strong circadian rhythm–the internal clock signaling when to go to sleep and when to rise. Night shift workers often have ill health effects due to turning the natural circadian rhythm upside down. Northwestern University found that employees with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. They also enjoyed better sleep quality.

Natural light offices can reduce vision problems and headaches

When Cornell University Professor, Dr. Alan Hedge, ran an experiment to optimize natural light with smart glass, workers reported an 84% reduction in visual symptoms such as eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision. In another study, 78% of employees with “better access to natural light and views” had less eye strain and 80% had fewer headaches.

Mood improves with exposure to natural light

It’s no secret that sunshine has an impact on happiness and mood. That is why many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the darker, winter months. Likewise, employees working in windowless cubicles under constant artificial lighting can become glum. In one survey, 43% of employees admit they felt gloomy in the absence of natural light or a window at their office.

Getting drowsy at work? Try more natural lighting

Help employees resist the urge for an afternoon nap. Because bright sunlight reminds the body of its circadian rhythm, workers exposed to natural light feel more awake and alert. In a recent study, 91% of employees reporting less drowsiness at work after an office renovation that incorporated more natural light.

Sunlight on skin synthesizes Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a hormone that the body creates when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. It is essential to many areas of human health, including protecting cardiac health, weight management, enabling calcium absorption to stave off osteoporosis and much more.

7 ways to incorporate natural lighting into your office

1. Place desks near external windows. Seat employees within about 20 feet of a window.
2. Rotate desk assignments. If your office space does not allow for everyone to have access to an outside window, rotate desk assignments several times per year. Or reserve window desks for certain tasks or types of work. If you follow an office hoteling or hotdesking policy, set rules that help all employees receive window desk assignments.
3. If possible, add skylights. Skylights are a great way to bring natural light into the most internal portions of your office space.
4. Design an open office floor plan. Natural light permeates open, airy spaces. An open office design lets more employees share the light from outside windows and skylights.
5. Use multiple types of indoor lighting. Instead of focusing exclusively on fluorescent overhead lighting, try to break up the downward lighting with other types of light fixtures. Try incorporating some natural light lamps for office use.
6. Consider electrochromic glass windows. When the glare of the sun bounces off a monitor screen, natural light may not seem like the best office lighting for computer work. That’s why many office buildings place dark tints on windows or use shades. Electrochromic glass is an electronically tintable smart glass that optimizes the amount of natural light let through for time of day or atmospheric conditions.
7. Design outdoor spaces employees can use. Vitamin D production requires actual sun exposure. If you create a green space outdoors for employees to use during breaks or for small meetings, employees will benefit from direct sunlight, fresh air and the enjoyment of nature.

The health benefits of natural light in the workplace include better sleep, improved mood and alertness, and even a reduction in headaches and eye strain. Healthier employees translate directly into higher workforce productivity and stronger financial performance for your business. Asure Software’s workspace solutions can help you match the needs of your workforce to your office design to ignite employee performance and engagement.