Please, don’t take my sunshine away! Study after study continues to show just how vital sunshine and natural spaces are to our overall well-being. Shuttering employees into artificially lit boxes heightens stress levels, negatively impacts sleep, and increases depression. For a more productive and healthy workforce, we must embrace windows and natural lighting.

Health Benefits of Natural Lighting

It’s rudimentary science to understand how vital sunshine is to our word. We need light to grow plants, to see, to regulate body functions, to produce and metabolize essential vitamins. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found, “lack of exposure to natural light in the workspace is associated with physiological, sleep and depressive symptoms.” Simply designing spaces for windows or skylights allow for natural light works wonders to allay these symptoms. Incorporating sunshine into the workplace isn’t a benefit, but a necessity for a healthy workforce.

Productivity Benefits to Natural Lighting

Worker health isn’t the only benefit from exposure to the outdoors. Leesman surveyed over 250,000 employees across the globe and found 85.1 percent felt workplace design was important, but only 57 percent found their particular workplace’s design helped them work effectively. While factors like distractions, volume, and space functionality play a role in effective workplace design, so does allowing for natural light. The same survey found 76 percent of employees across 69 countries ranked natural light as important to them, but only 57 percent (again) were satisfied with the available lighting in their workplace.

Why does this matter? While you may think window-gazing as a distraction, exposure to sunlight and natural scenery (green spaces) actually boosted productivity by six percent, according to research. It was associated with a 15 percent bump in overall well-being and creativity.  A workplace’s exposure to the great outdoors actually reduced absenteeism. Employees stationed closer to windows were more likely to show up to work.

Designing Office for Natural Light

So how can office spaces maximize natural lighting, especially when many cash-strapped startups launch from older office buildings designed for a different era? It may take some creativity, but you can maximize your available lighting.

At SharedSpaces, we purposefully designed our conference room spaces for natural lighting to help inspire creativity and create a warm feel. Stationing conference rooms near outside walls or with windows is a commonplace practice. Perhaps consider letting employees know the conference room is free to work in if it’s not booked. Use glass partitions to allow the light to flow through the conference room and into interior spaces.

Create a casual lounge area around windows. Make this a place employees congregate to enjoy a cup of coffee, eat lunch, or brainstorm ideas.

You may be fortunate enough to have outdoor space that could be crafted into an outdoor seating area. Let employees use the area for breaks or to work. Breaking up the monotony of office work with a new setting, especially outdoors when the weather is pleasant, can recharge creative batteries.

Think outside the box. Perhaps install a new front glass door that allows more light to flow through. Place flexible workstations around windows or scheduling company activities outside the office. One of the benefits of coworking places is you can move your workstation around, perhaps grabbing a prime seat near a window.

Consider making natural light exposure one of the considerations during your space hunt. If you’re opting for coworking areas, check out the design of space in relation to natural lighting. At most coworking places, even if you opt for a private office with no window, you can still work in the larger shared spaces. Knowing how beneficial natural light is to worker health and productivity means we need to carefully consider how we design our workspaces.


Abbey Weil

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