Employees perform better if their offices have natural light, a new workplace study finds
Let there be light in the workplace.
Workers say access to natural light in their offices is the No. 1 workplace perk they want, according to new study by the HR firm Future Workplace, as reported by The Harvard Business Review. It beat out other office luxuries like cafeterias, gyms and on-site childcare.
The poll of 1,614 U.S. employees found that more than one third of workers say they don’t get enough natural light in their work spaces. What’s more, another 47% of employees admit they feel very tired without natural light or a window near their desk, and another 43% reported that their mood was negatively affected in dark spaces, leaving them feeling gloomy or sad due to the lack of light.
The need to work in bright places could stem from our increased screen time — which is around four hours a day daily for adults over 18-years-old: About three in four (73%) of employees said the longer they use mobile devices, screens or tablets, the more they want to take a break from their desks or take a walk outside.
Research shows that there’s a direct correlation between sunlight and mood. When we’re exposed to sunlight, our bodies release more of the hormone serotonin, which is known for boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and even more focused. Darker lighting, however, triggers the release of a hormone called melatonin, which is responsible for helping people sleep. And night shift work has been associated with higher rates of anxiety, stress and depression along with worsening mood and poor decision making — a possible reason that depression rates rise during fall and winter when it starts getting darker earlier.
Studies show offices that have ample daylight have a positive effect on employee wellbeing and can significantly improve health. An Australian study found that people had higher levels of serotonin when it was sunny out compared to cloudy days.
If you don’t sit by the window, or feel like you’re working in a dimly lit corporate dungeon, there are ways to brighten up your workspace. If you have a cubicle, consider buying a small desk lamp, like a Sunlight Desk Lamp, which has a 150-Watt bulb that will mimics natural light even in the darkest cubicles ($32.99 on Amazon).
And if you have your own office, or a larger space, consider a floor lamp or even flameless battery candles for your desktop to offset the harsh fluorescent lights overhead. Or place ambient lighting in darker areas where the natural light doesn’t reach if you’re far from a window. Another option, if you have more of a relaxed, intimate office setting, is to add a desk or floor length mirror across from windows or in dark corners to reflect light from outside.
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