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Sitting next to sunlight boosts productivity at work

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The office environment can have numerous effects on our health – some positive and some negative.

Perhaps one of the most difficult for employees to contend with, however, is the overwhelming sense of sleepiness that can affect productivity, particularly on a Monday morning or after lunchtime.

However, a new study by Oxford University neuroscientist professor Russell Foster has shown that this can easily be overcome in one simple way – by sitting next to a window.

According to Professor Foster, sunlight is linked to serotonin – the chemical which makes us feel happy – and a lack of it can not only lead to feelings of sadness, but also make us feel fatigued.

Speaking about the importance of light emittance – which is measured in lux – Professor Foster said: “When you are exposed to 1,000 lux, you are getting enough light for full alertness. But in many ways we are light deprived, with the average office lighting only producing 300 lux, which is less than we need.”

So, for those in shared offices, sitting next to a window on a sunny day can help double alertness compared to those stuck in the middle of the room under artificial lighting, which is typically rather dull.

The bad news is that many office spaces are just not set up in this way. Indeed, Professor Foster’s study found that less than five per cent of daylight filters into the average building and energy-saving light bulbs are an “unmitigated disaster” because they have low lux levels and lack the required intensity needed to boost mood.

For employees who are stuck inside darker buildings, it is therefore doubly important that an effort is made to get out into natural daylight during break times and at lunchtime – even if this is just for ten minutes, a huge difference can be felt.

Doing this will not only help to regulate sleep, but it will also ensure that staff members feel alert and productive when at work.