Today, office design trends are increasingly focused on the health and well-being of workers. Standing desks and adjustable workstations have become very popular as healthier workplace amenities that appeal to many employees, millennials in particular. These options are reported to improve productivity and overall perceived health in 65% of those surveyed. With workspaces changing to improve the employee experience, it’s only natural that companies are looking upward for inspiration as lighting design enters the reimagining of the office environment.

Natural Light and a Healthy Workplace

The EPA reports that 90% of the typical individual’s day is spent inside, leaving little opportunity to be exposed to natural light. Amount of exposure to natural light is essential to many important aspects of an individual’s health, including sleep, activity levels and overall quality of life. A Psychology Today study found that workers with exposure to at least one window received 173% more white light exposure during working hours and slept an average of 46 more minutes each night.  Too much exposure to artificial light disrupts circadian rhythms because it is often too dim during the day and then too bright in the evening. Workers who are not well-rested are less productive during the workday, due to the strong connection between sleep and cognitive functioning. There is also a seasonal aspect to an insufficient exposure to natural light during the winter months, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. This disorder can cause biological, mental and behavioral changes that impact the well-being of employees in the office and in their life outside of work. Workers exposed to more natural light also demonstrated a 12% increase in task performance. Respondents in the same survey also indicated that they felt happier and more energized when working under natural light. Other benefits to natural light include reduction of eye strain and decreased frequency of headaches, as compared to working under artificial lights. Natural light is also tied to the regulation of Vitamin D, serotonin and melatonin, all important factors in maintaining a healthy immune system and in preventing cold and flu viruses from spreading in the workplace. Increasing employee exposure to natural light can decrease absenteeism. A study has shown that absenteeism is 6.5% lower in employees with desks closer to windows.

Energy and Cost Savings Associated with Improved Natural Light

In addition to the productivity gains that can be attributed to more natural light, less reliance on artificial light can further contribute to profitability by lowering the operating costs of an organization. According to the Carbon Trust, workspace lighting can account for up to 40% of a building’s electricity use. Sensors can be used to adjust levels of artificial light to balance out the natural light present at different times of day, and occupancy sensors are helpful in dimming or switching off artificial lights in space which are not in use.

Tools to Manage Lighting in the Workspace

A study of employees in 69 countries found that 75.8% of workers find natural light to be very important and but only half of employees are satisfied with the amount of natural light in their workplace. In addition to incorporating as much office space into design plans, organizations should consider other tools to maximize the value of office space and workforce productivity. Asure Software provides the full range of tools you need to manage a modern workspace.

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