Daylight in the workplace – Are we getting enough?
Some co-working centres suffer from lack of natural light impacting on productivity
Natural daylight is an essential ingredient to our well-being. A lack of it reduces productivity and employee satisfaction, numerous scientific studies have shown.
BE Offices, the leading independent flexible space provider, asked workplace scientist Dr Kerstin Sailer, co-founder of Brainybirdz and an Associate Professor at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture, to draw together all the relevant research on the impact of daylight in the workplace and how it affects performance.
Studies have shown, reports Dr Sailer, that greater access to daylight can improve productivity by as much as 20%, as well as enhancing employee satisfaction in the workplace. She also reports that greater exposure to daylight can reduce stress levels too.
While modern office design is embracing the need for greater natural daylight, there is a worrying trend within parts of the flexible office market where an increased dependency on the provision of co-working space and maximisation of occupancy levels is restricting access to natural light.
The concern is that with an increasing emphasis on an attractive co-working offer, operators are providing desk and office space in less desirable parts of a building where access to natural light is limited. Over time this can have a negative effect on productivity and employee satisfaction.
Many countries around the world have recognised the importance of daylight for human well-being and have introduced legislation to safeguard access to daylight in the workplace. However, a number of countries, including the UK, have failed to introduce minimum legal requirements for worker access to daylight.
Perhaps there is a connection between Germany’s renowned efficiency and productivity levels and its approach to workers’ daylight access. The country recently tightened legislation and now stipulates that only spaces with sufficient daylight and an external view are permissible as workspaces, with only a few exceptions.
David Saul, Managing Director and co-founder of BE Offices, commented: “We believe it is high time Government introduced appropriate legislation that lays down minimum standards for access to daylight in the work environment.
“I am sure it is no coincidence that Germany is leading the way in Europe on this matter and at the same time has one of the world’s best productivity records and sets the standard for workplace efficiency.
“If the UK is to compete in an extremely competitive global marketplace then it must ensure the workplace is a highly effective and productive place.
“It is worrying that parts of the flexible space market could be contributing to underperformance in a wide variety of business sectors due to the potential negative impact of environments that do not have adequate access to natural daylight.”
The impact of natural daylight can also be seen in schools where US studies showed the positive effect in the classroom. Schools with the best daylighting conditions showed a 20-26% faster rate of improvement over a one-year period compared to those with the lowest provision of windows in California.
Even in hospitals studies have shown that nurses exposed to more than three hours of daylight every day reported significantly less work-related stress and higher job satisfaction levels. This also applied to patients who, it was found, took 22% less analgesic medication per hour if they were located on the sunny side of the hospital compared to those on the dimmer side.
“We all intuitively know that daylight is important, but how much of this is scientifically proven? Seeing the hard facts on the impact of daylight on perceptions of stress, productivity, mood and sleep patterns shows how crucial daylight is to the rhythms and physiological responses of the human body. The fact that workers in offices with windows sleep 46 minutes longer every night than their colleagues in windowless offices is compelling evidence and should be taken very seriously by workplace designers,” says Dr Sailer.
In conclusion she commented: “There is strong scientific evidence that natural daylight has an impact on human well-being as it eases concentration and learning, raises productivity, reduces stress and means better and longer sleep at night.
“The impact of views of the outside world enabled by windows, also called prospect, is less well researched as a contributing factor to workplace productivity. However, scholarly work has provided initial evidence which suggests that prospect and views of nature increase attention.”
Research has indicated that exposure to daylight can reduce stress levels and can also help with mood improvements as well as possibly lowering the negative impact of SAD, seasonal affective disorder.
David Saul strongly believes it is only a matter of time before a scientifically-proven link between the lack of daylight in the work environment and SAD, consequently leading to depression, is made which could have huge implications for businesses both legally and operationally.
To view the full report please click here.