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Shedding some daylight on one of the most important aspects of office design

Posted on November 1, 2017 by admin

One of the most underappreciated and least talked about aspects of a productive workplace design is not only completely free, we enjoy a limitless supply of it. Daylight is very much an underrated commodity as an element of building design. In the more than 2,200 offices worldwide surveyed by workplace analytics firm Leesman, 77 per cent  of workers agree that natural light is important to them, yet only 58 per cent are satisfied with the offering in their own workplace. Meanwhile various pieces of research from the World Green Building Council, the International Well Building Institute and others have all demonstrated the importance of natural light in employee engagement and productivity. Yet research from Sir Cary Cooper suggests that over 40 percent of office workers in Europe have no access to natural light during the day. There’s even a chance you feel better just by contemplating the image on this blog.

The list of benefits seems endless. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s review of the effects of natural light on building occupants showed that it reduces the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, kills certain bacteria, helps people sleep longer, increases visual clarity and colour perception, boosts Vitamin D absorption, increases mental alertness and improves mood. Natural daylight supports the regulation of Vitamin D, serotonin and melatonin which can prevent colds and flu, and brittle bone disease thereby boosting employee engagement through reducing absenteeism.

An online survey from Human Spaces of 7,600 respondents, found that those in biophilic environments reported 15 percent greater creativity and wellbeing. A study of a call-centre, with solid embedded objective metrics, found that operatives with views out, access to daylight and greenery had 6 percent higher performance than their colleagues in less well daylit spaces.

Evidence from the University of Illinois proves just how important daylight is to our wellbeing. The study of two groups, one of which worked in artificially lit windowless offices, the other with access to windows, found that office workers with exposure to daylight slept longer, enjoyed better quality sleep, were more physically active, were more productive and reported a better quality of life

According to the report: “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. 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. Architects 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.”

The report suggests that one simple solution is for building designers to ensure that nobody is more than around 25 feet from a window and that the specification of internal partitions and other elements that can obscure daylight is carefully considered. The researchers believes that in most buildings 25 feet is the point at which natural light from windows has no effect on occupants.

The study itself found that the group of employees exposed to daylight 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 in the workplace. As well as quantitative measures related to sleep patterns, the workers working in windowless offices also self-reported poorer scores on quality of life measures related to physical activity, wellbeing, productivity and vitality.

This research provides yet more evidence of the links between office design and individual wellness and productivity. It is also one that can be addressed both at the architectural level as well as in terms of interior design, but there is also a question of culture. We already understand the benefits of movement as an integral part of the working day, so we should also consider just how important it can be to encourage people to move somewhere they can enjoy the free and limitless supply of daylight.