One simple key to creating a healthier, work environment? Exposure to natural light.
There’s something so uplifting about natural light. It makes us feel brighter and happier, it boosts our energy, and it’s soothing to our natural circadian rhythms. Now, new research confirms what we have long suspected – that offices with more daylight exposure have a positive impact on workplace wellbeing, suggesting that a simple design solution focusing on windows might make for a healthier, more productive work environment.
Researchers from Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois found that office workers with more exposure to natural daylight at the office slept better, got more physical activity, and reported a better quality of life than those without that natural light fix. Those with windows in the workplace soaked up 173% more white light exposure during the day, and slept an average of 46 minutes longer per night than workers with less exposure.
Natural light for better health
“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,” says senior study author Dr Phyllis Zee, a neurologist and sleep specialist at Northwestern Medicine.
“(Office) 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. The study results confirm that light during the natural daylight hours has powerful effects on health.”
An architectural solution, the researchers suggest, would be to make sure workstations are within 20 to 25 feet (approximately 6 to 7.6 m) of the peripheral walls containing the windows.
“Light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body,” says co-lead author Ivy Cheung, a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience in Dr Zee’s lab. “Proper synchronization of your internal biological rhythms with the earth’s daily rotation has been shown to be essential for health.”