Natural Light in the Office Shown to Improve Employee Health

Natural Light in the Office Improves Employee’s Health

Image Credit: Mark Sebastian/Flickr

New research shows that natural light in the office improves sleep, physical activity, and quality of life.

Look around your workspace. Is there natural light? Do you have a window to look outside? If so, you likely sleep better, are more physically active, and have a better quality of life than your colleagues that can’t see outside. Or so says a new study from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The study highlights the importance of exposure to natural light to employee health and the priority designers of office environments should place on natural daylight exposure for workers.

Consider this, employees with windows received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than employees who did not have the natural light exposure. There also was a trend for workers in offices with windows to have more physical activity than those without windows.

Workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances.

“There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism,” said senior study author Phyllis Zee, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist. “Workers are a group at risk because they are typically indoors often without access to natural or even artificial bright light for the entire day.

Natural Light and Office Design

A simple design solution to augment daylight penetration in office buildings would be to make sure the workstations are within 20 to 25 feet of the peripheral walls containing the windows, as that is as far inside the beneficial effects of light can travel.

“Designers need to be aware of the importance of natural light not only in terms of their potential energy savings but also in terms of affecting occupants’ health,” said co-lead author Mohamed Boubekri, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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