Natural light leads to better performance in the office

A scientific study has found a link between performance and exposure to daylight in the workplace.
If working in a windowless, fluorescent box has got you down, you won’t be surprised to learn of a recent study finding that the amount of natural daylight in an office affects the quality of life and performance of the people working in it.

The study – Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Lifeconcludes, office workers exposed to daylight throughout their working day sleep longer at night, are more physically active and have a higher quality of life than their peers working in windowless offices.

colorful sunset, ray of light

“The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable.” Ivy Cheung, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University in Chicago.




The study analysed the health of a group of 49 day-shift office workers – 22 in windowed offices and 27 in workplaces without windows, and was conducted by a group of researchers at the interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago.

The results found that people working in windowed offices received 173% more white light during their working day than their windowless peers, which enabled an extra 46 minutes of sleep time to be achieved on average every night.

There was also an increase in the amount of physical activity performed throughout the day by the windowed office group, who also scored higher for levels of vitality.

The results were a stark contrast to the windowless office workers group, which had a higher percentage of sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunctions.

The study went further, showing people working in windowless offices scored lower on quality of life measures related to vitality and physical problems, taking into account overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency and daytime dysfunctions.

“Day-shift office workers’ quality of life and sleep may be improved via emphasis on light exposure and lighting levels in current offices as well as in the design of future offices,” said Cheung.

The research suggests architects and employers should reconsider the role natural light plays in the working environment, and take it into account when considering the structural forces that motivate and stimulate workers.

The study does offer a possible solution to the those affected, concluding:  “Enhanced indoor lighting for those with insufficient daylight in current offices as well as increased emphasis on sufficient daylight exposure in the architectural design of future office environments may improve office workers’ physical and mental well-being.” 

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