You are booking your airline tickets and the seat map pops up, would you like a window or aisle seat? Maybe you like to look out the window as you lift off, watching the clouds swirl in around the airplane and then settle below like a soft down pillow. Or maybe you rather not see what’s happening out there; heights are not your thing. It is nice to have a choice though, which is not something you may have when it comes to where you sit at the office. If you had a choice, window or aisle seat for 8 hours a day, where would you sit?
I’m sure you have seen studies or at least heard the rumors that exposure to daylight is important for our overall health which can certainly impact our work performance. Well the rumors are true! There IS a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and a number of life factors like sleep, activity and quality of life.
The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable. Studies have found that workers with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and as a result slept an average of 46 minutes more per night. Let’s be honest, most of us could use a little more shut eye. But how does the lack of windows in my office affect catching z’s at night? Light is the main cue that influences circadian rhythms: biological, mental and behavioral changes that dictate functions like sleep-wake cycles, hormone release and body temperature. Signals in the environment such as light are what control our internal clocks. Consistent exposure to daylight will result in a better-regulated circadian cycle meaning you will sleep better at night and be more refreshed and ready to take on your tasks at the office.
Not only does more sleep help you stay alert and focused on the tasks at hand, daylight also increases cortisol levels. Naturally produced in the body, this hormone can help heighten memory functions as well as making us more alert. Vitamin D production will also increase which can lead to an improved immune system. Studies have shown a 15 percent decline in absenteeism when employees worked under natural light conditions, which means increased productivity! Exposure to daylight also represses the production of melatonin which is associated with sleep onset. Instead of trying to fight off that mid-morning or afternoon fatigue with a candy bar or another cup of coffee, opt for sunshine to stimulate wakefulness without any added calories!
Dreary, rainy days can sometimes put a damper on your mood much like spending your day under artificial lights. On the other hand, warm, sunny days can lift your spirits, so can sitting near a window at the office. Daylight raises the neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, a chemical that has a big impact on mood, disposition and the ability to handle stress. The more serotonin released, the better your mood and happiness is contagious. A happier work environment means everyone feels good about coming to work. Employees will show up on time, won’t take as long for breaks and will be more engaged with their coworkers and in their work.
If you are lucky enough to have a window seat, reap the benefits. For those of us with just glimpses of the outside world throughout the day, make a point to take a few breaks and get your daily dose of sunlight. Take your lunch outside on nice days or eat in a break or meeting room with windows. There are also light bulbs available which allow you to enjoy some of the therapeutic benefits of natural light. Although nothing is the perfect replacement for the magical effect of sunlight on our bodies, alternatives can provide some supplement.
If your office space has limited access to natural light, working with an interior designer to maximize daylight through effective space planning can make a world of difference. Maximizing natural light in your work space will result in more productivity and efficiency, not to mention happier employees! After all, who doesn’t feel good with the warm rays of the sun shining down on them?Back to List of Posts