When you walk into an office space, what’s the first thing you notice? The furniture? The décor? How about natural light?
According to a survey by Leesman involving 250,000 companies, 72% of workers identified natural light as a very important feature in the workplace. Similarly, the Harvard Business Review recently cited a study deeming access to natural light the number one attribute that employees look for in their work environment.
With those statistics, it becomes difficult to deny the importance of lighting in an office space. In this blog, we investigate the benefits of natural light on employee health, wellbeing, and productivity for the business.
The benefits of natural office light
Having access to natural light is more than just an employee preference. Large windows that let in the sun’s natural light do more than just please employees, after all.
There are also a series of emotional, physical, mental, and financial benefits that come with enough exposure to sunlight.
Natural light helps workers sleep better
In 2017, the National Sleep Foundation found that workers who are exposed to high levels of natural light in their offices reported a better general quality of sleep than those workers who had no exposure to natural light. Why? Partly because natural light helps to regulate the natural circadian rhythms of the body (the schedule of sleeping and waking).
During sleep, your body works to support healthy brain functioning while also maintaining your physical health. In young adults, sleep also helps foster development and growth. Inadequate sleep and sleeping patterns over a long period of time can even lead to health problems.
On the other hand, getting enough sleep every night has been connected to greater levels of productivity and satisfaction in employees. In fact, a 2017 study published in the Rand Health Quarterly reported that workers who get plenty of rest achieve more at work than coworkers who are only sleeping six hours or less each night. This brings us to our next point…
Increased productivity in the workplace
There has been plenty of research into how sunlight affects workers’ ability to be productive and undertake quality work in the office. It seems that bringing outdoor qualities — like light and plants — indoors gives workers a more positive mindset and allows for a more focused approach. You can find out more about the benefits of greenery in the office in another of our articles.
Perhaps this is owing to the sluggishness and soporific effect we associate with dimmed, yellowed lighting. Bright, cool sunlight evokes the alertness of mornings, while mellow, warm overhead lights feel more like a lazy afternoon.
Results supporting this idea have been found even in areas outside of office contexts. For example, the company Pacific Gas & Electric conducted a study all the way back in 2000 testing the effect of natural light on sales in Walmart, to conclude that sales in stores with skylights were 31 to 49% higher than in those with only fluorescent lighting.
As for the impact of this increased employee productivity on the business, Dr Alan Hedge, a well-known ergonomist, calculated the financial impact of natural light. The findings of his study were as follows:
- Improving light quality leads to better worker energy
- Which leads to better work performance.
- Workers who had access to views and natural window light reported 2% greater productivity levels.
- That’s the equivalent of an additional $100,000 of annual value for every 100 workers. (assuming an average salary of $50,000 p/a).
Increased employee health
The impact of employee access to natural light also extends into the realm of personal health. Employee or not, actually, having regular exposure to the light of the sun can lead to:
- Reduced risk of eye strain
- Fewer headaches
- Improved mood
- Reduced drowsiness
This has been backed up by a study from Cornell in which employees who were exposed to sunlight in the workplace experienced an 84% reduction in blurred vision, headaches, and eye strain. For business owners, it is important that staff are healthy and able to carry out their jobs to the best of their abilities. When you think about it, healthier staff means higher quality services.
In 2011, the University of Oregon connected the view from a worker’s desk and their exposure to natural light to the amount of sick leave they claim. Those who had optimal working conditions, like those in our Victoria Street or Liverpool Street offices (large open windows and unobstructed natural light) took 6.5% less sick leave than others.
Reduced energy costs
Moving away from employees themselves, there are also improvements in energy efficiency that come with investing in natural light in the office.
To risk stating the obvious, making windows larger and removing light obstructions makes the workplace brighter. As such, fewer artificial lighting solutions are required. While these costs may be small, they do add up, and ultimately lead to a more energy-efficient office – and reduced overhead costs for business owners in the form of utility bills.
Maximising the benefits of natural light
If you already have natural light in your office, you can maximise it by adding plants and other brightening elements, such as artwork. Painting the walls colours such as green, blue, and yellow can help reflect natural light, and make any room feel brighter.
How to get more natural light in your office
Here at Myo, we understand the impact of workspace design on employee satisfaction and health.
That’s why our offices to let in London are optimised in terms of natural light, comfort, and other mood-boosting features. Our offices have floor-to-ceiling windows to let in as much natural light into the private and communal working spaces as possible, while allowing for panoramic views of the city.
Below are some ideas of how you could incorporate more natural light into your workspace:
- Use a matte wall paint finish and bright colours to help rooms feel larger, airier, and lighter.
- To avoid glare from natural lights, you can always use diffuser screens, frosted glass, or softboxes.
- If you don’t have the option to remove obstructions or simply ‘add more windows’, invest in smart lighting solutions that mimic the conditions created by organic sunlight. There are systems out there that can simulate external conditions in the office, for example, lighting and darkening the office based on how overcast or sunny it is.