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Natural Light – Importance in the Workplace

04 December 2020

A recent survey by Future Workplace concludes that natural light makes a considerable difference to employee wellbeing.

The opinion of many that participated in the Employee Experience study adds to the evidence that natural light is still a priority, for good mental health in our ever more technology-focused work. 

The Effect of Sunlight on Mental Health

Future Workplace is the Human Resources advisory unit for the Harvard Business Review. Their poll of 1,614 North American employees highlighted that views of the outside world and natural lighting while working are rated most important for happiness. Is this just a preference when indoors?

Vitamin D is an important component of sunlight for human health, but we can’t absorb the necessary ultraviolet through windows. In summer’s direct sun is when people obtain most of their Vitamin D in a year – during winter this is mostly boosted by diet and supplements. Seasonal Adjustment Disorder (SAD) affects between five and 10 per cent of people globally, and is characterised by a negative effect on mental health generally felt in winter as an aftermath to the warmer, brighter months. With shorter day light hours and less outdoor activities taking place for the average person, many experience a form of clinical depression.

The Future Workplace Employee Experience Study found 78 per cent of employees say access to natural light and views improves their wellbeing and 70 per cent report improved work performance. Over a third of employees feel that they don’t get enough natural light in their workspace. 47 per cent of employees admit they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43 per cent report feeling gloomy because of the lack of light. The effect of unnatural blue hues in our screens is well documented to have a damaging affect on our eyes, especially when undiluted by natural light.

However, Regulation 8 of the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare only requires that lighting at work is suitable, sufficient and natural where possible. It means that the necessity for this element of biophilic design is very low, as it is in other areas of the concept. A biophilic approach seeks to connect building occupants more closely to nature. To achieve this, buildings should incorporate elements like natural lighting, ventilation and landscape features, which we discussed at length in October this year. Such consideration in design creates a more comforting and healthier built environment for people. 


Altering the Environment to Make a Positive Difference


Michal Cohen-Sagi, CEO at 58 Wellbeing expressed the benefits that natural lighting design has brought to her team and clients: “Working in biophilic design should take in consideration of natural light. At 58 Wellbeing centre, all of our therapy rooms have high ceilings and large windows, the reception and waiting area are spacious and have lots of natural light. This helps team wellbeing and supports the client's journey.”

“It brings positivity and open communication that, especially now with COVID social distancing, enhance the ability to feel nurtured and supported in a safe and natural environment,” she added.

Receptionist at 58 Wellbeing, Georgia Berry echoed this sentiment, stating: “When working in a face-to-face role, it's easy to take on peoples' energy unconsciously. However I have come to realise that when working in an environment that incorporates biophilic design it has the opposite effect and people automatically feel less stress, calmed and at ease, which is such a beautiful thing and overall creates a peaceful and pleasant environment to be part of.” 58 Wellbeing take reflect the ethos of their products in the treatment of their employee environment, and they have kindly donated an all-natural body care kit for our Christmas Giveaway this year.

After the second lockdown, many employees will be anticipating moving out of less ideal home set ups and back into the offices – those that are continuing to work from home should be including lighting in their work station risk assesment going forwards. As facilities managers look to increase morale and health in the workplace over a time when the impact of a docked festive season is felt, it's clear that economic downturn may have an affect on the budget for this. Instead of a complete space overhaul, choosing light reflective paints in pale colours and even utilising mirrors can be small changes that go a long way. Consider speaking with your teams about the intensity and presence of any unnatural lighting, and ways in which the atmosphere can be improved in other ways. Encourage the use of blue light filters for those that are negatively affected, and discuss whether they would appreciate further development of natural light provisions for the future, in order to assure them of your consideration. 


Picture: a communal office space with large windows.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 04 December 2020


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