Natural light provides workplaces with an economic form of lighting while improving the quality of the working environment through visual links with the outdoors.
Daylight (or lack thereof) affects people in the workplace, with research showing that more natural light in the workplace is a crucial aspect of reducing stress levels and increasing performance.
Humans are drawn to the outdoors and feel most comfortable when they are connected in some way with nature. Though it has disadvantages as a light source, including glare and uncontrolled or variable illumination, natural light is still a desirable aspect of the workplace for employees.
The benefits of natural light in the workplace are manifold.
Research conducted in 1994 showed headaches and eyestrain as being amongthe biggest health problems in the workplace, and these issues are related to the spectrum of light experienced in workplaces.
The Colour Rendering Index (CRI) rates how lamps render colour.
“The best CRI is daylight,” says Mudit Saxena, project manager for California-based energy consulting firm Heschong Mahone Group Inc.
“You can’t beat that because it has the full spectrum of colours. After that, you start losing some colours.”
Eyestrain is significantly reduced when the worker has a window with a view. Both short-range and long-range views are provided by landscape views which force the eye to constantly refocus, benefiting the eyes.
Natural light increases attentiveness, causes fewer headaches and increases productivity.
Decreased Energy Use
Taking advantage of natural light with plenty of window access results in less of a need for artificial lighting and subsequently, less energy consumption and lower energy bills. Whereas artificial lights can be left on when no one is around, natural light goes unwasted.
Many offices making an effort to reduce their carbon footprint are seeing a large reduction in annual electricity costs by cutting down on artificial light and maximising natural light.
Saxena suggests installing daylight monitoring sensors in the workplace which automatically adjusts the light levels indoors according to the light outdoors for increased energy efficiency.
“When we installed them in our San Francisco office we reduced the lighting energy consumption by 30 to 35 per cent,” he said.
“In the late 1970’s during the energy crisis, the idea of energy-efficient building was a sealed building with no windows. Worker productivity went to hell,” Saxena says.
Natural light has a positive effect on workers and promotes a higher level of organisation and motivation.
Studies show that workers overwhelmingly prefer to have their work stations near a window, with studies showing that 73 per cent of workers surveyed said being near a window was ‘extremely important.’
The natural light and view of the outdoors provides stimulation and variety throughout the work day.
Bright and open working environments with plenty of windows reduce stress leading to increased concentration and productivity.
Studies have shown that companies that try to cut corners on lighting often experience lower quality of work and lower productivity from their employees.
How to Increase Natural Light
Tearing down the office and building a new one is not practical, but there are other, less drastic measures that can be taken to increase the amount of natural light in the workplace.
Full pane, or floor to ceiling windows can be installed to maximise the amount of light entering the building. Top floors can have skylights or light tubes installed to funnel light into the room below.
There is a reason why people pay more for hotel rooms with views. Workers with access to natural daylight have instant access to time and weather, connecting them with the outside world.
Workers with a view of the outdoors tend to show less stress from their jobs, fewer ailments, and more job satisfaction. They can also recover from stressful situations quicker and don’t tend to become stressed out as easily.
People don’t want to feel trapped in a space while working. They want to feel a connection to the outside and want to be able be to enjoy nature while sitting at their desk. A bright, positive working environment increases worker’s happiness.
Many modern offices are opting for glass walls and spatial dividers with as much access to windows as possible for a more efficient workspace.