Without a doubt, natural light is the number-one way to improve workplace productivity. From experience, we can say that working by a window has improved our sleep, boosted our mood, increased our creativity levels, and so much more. It can help battled SAD too which can be pretty crippling at times!
The question — how does natural light do all of this — still stands though. So let’s tackle that now.
1. Natural Light Boosts Your Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D is essential for our body’s health and wellbeing. Not getting enough of this vital vitamin can end up causing asthma, obesity, flu, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and in rare cases, cancer. Why? Because it is used by our bodies to regulate our immune system, keep our weight at a healthy level, and maintain cognitive function.
There have been plenty of scientific studies conducted on the impact of working in offices with no windows. All of which have conclusively stated that a larger percentage of the team take more sick days throughout the year when sat in rooms with zero (or very little) natural light.
Vitamin D is usually absorbed through the skin (it’s most effective when soaking through the eyelids) when the sunlight touches us outside. However, it does still absorb into our bodies through windows when the curtains are open. Having said that, it is always best to open up the windows to let all the natural light (and fresh air!) into your office.
Sometimes, you might not be able to access natural light in your office. While this isn’t ideal, you can get vitamin D from other sources including:
- Oily fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines)
- Red meat (steak, etc)
- Egg yolks (duck eggs, chicken eggs, etc.)
- Fortified food (including breakfast cereal and some spreads)
In the autumn and winter, the sunlight won’t be strong enough to give you sufficient vitamin D, even if you can get lots of natural light in your office. During these seasons, taking a supplement will be super helpful to aid productivity and overall physical health. It’s unlikely that food alone will give you enough of this vital nutrient (sadly) but you can calculate your intake if you feel like it (although this isn’t necessary).
2. Natural Light Improves Your Mood
Think about the last time you were in a foul mood. Were you productive? Probably not! When we’re unhappy or annoyed, we’re certainly not very productive — not to mention that our concentration levels sink below the mantle layer of the earth.
Thankfully, there are ways to improve your mood in the long term. The number one way is natural light. If your office is flooded with sunlight throughout the day, you are far less likely to develop mental conditions such as depression, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and bipolar.
It has been scientifically proven that natural light helps you to feel happier, more relaxed, and less at risk of suffering detrimental effects from stress.
When choosing a workplace, you should always try to find a space with lots of large windows. This way, you are maximizing your chances of experience all-day sunlight. While you might not feel the great effects straight away, over time, you will notice a huge impact on your daily productivity.
Seasonal affective disorder is super common in office workers. To tell you the truth, natural light is the most effective way of curing it. However, there are ways to combat it if you still need to be productive in an area with little sunlight.
How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
- You can try CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or counseling.
- You can take antidepressants (if they’re prescribed by a professional).
- Use a SAD lamp. This simulates natural light and can be purchased on Amazon and other large retailers.
- Make sure you get enough exercise.
- Try to manage stress levels as effectively as possible. This might involve journaling, talking to loved ones, or something else entirely!
- You need to get as much sunlight as possible (sorry, we couldn’t resist saying it again!).
3. Natural Light Encourages Creativity
When we think of an office building, we picture windows covered in blinds allowing you to see precisely nothing in the outside world. This is completely unnatural though! Why? Because everything in this world needs sunlight to function. Plants need it to photosynthesize and animals need both night and day to ensure their circadian rhythms are in check (we’ll talk about this in more detail later on).
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory reviewed the effects of natural light in workplaces. They concluded that it increases color perception, visual clarity, and kickstart the pineal gland.
Without all of this, you won’t be able to unlock your full creative potential. Depending on your job role, you might be thinking that this is redundant. But, being creative is always important because it may open new career-related doors, allow you to find a new passion, and even just work more effectively in your current position.
How to Unlock Your Creative Potential
Aside from natural light (i.e. the most effective method), you can improve creative workplace productivity in other ways including:
- Inspire yourself — reflect on your day, be grateful, experience new things, exercise
- Get rid of screens — look out the window or go for a walk. Not only are you getting more sunlight here but you’re also helping your eyes from straining
- Get out of your comfort zone — you can only find creativity when you step away from what you know
- Think about what works — “why do people like this idea?”
- Think about the future — while you need to live in the moment, to design something that people will remember you for can help inspire your creative juices
- Carry a notebook with you — this way, if you have a “wow” moment, you won’t forget about it
- Forget everything you know about traditional education — it’s been proven to stifle creativity
4. Natural Light Saves Your Company’s Money
Generally speaking, having a load of windows in your office will save your business a ton of money. After running the numbers, roughly 45% of all office’s bills go on conditioning (in other words, controlling the light and temperature). So, fitting large windows cuts this in half since you don’t need to pay for light!
Daylighting reduces the amount of artificial (expensive) light, heat, ventilation, and conditioning you need to pump into your office space.
Over recent years, it has been noted that lighting is at the forefront of energy-saving ideas. However, offices have not made enough effort to maximize phenomenal natural light. It should be a holistic thing — i.e. finding solutions that can meet visual, thermal, and energy guidelines — but it just doesn’t seem to be happening.
Unfortunately, most buildings used as indoor workspaces these days were designed and built by contractors years ago. Why is this unfortunate? Well, daylighting needs to be thought about in the initial design stages since it will dictate the building’s orientation, glazing, roof design, blinds, bathrooms, and more.
Why Is Saving Money Important for Productivity?
Honestly, you’ve probably been wondering about this for the entire section! Sorry, we know we’ve kept you waiting so let’s get into this issue now.
Firstly, productivity doesn’t necessarily mean personal productivity. In other words, saving money is a productive task for a company’s cash flow and budgeting.
However, natural light saving money can also be good for personal productivity. Think of it this way. If your company uses windows for lighting, they’ll have more free money, right? This can then be used to give to their employees as pay rises or bonuses at the end of the year. Most people will perform more effectively if they know that something great will be given to them at the end of it.
5. Natural Light Improves Your Sleep
There have been a few studies conducted that have proven that there is a strong relationship between your sleep quality and the daylight you get in your workplace. They found that office workers who sat near windows every day slept 46 more minutes each night than those who weren’t exposed to daylight. Plus, employees who experienced lots of natural light had more deep sleep, better overall sleep quality, and snored, talked, and sleepwalked less.
The reason for the above was that the light had a hugely positive impact on their circadian rhythms. This dictates how our body releases hormones (like melatonin), regulates our temperature, sorts out natural sleep cycles, and loads more. As you can tell, it’s pretty important for our circadian rhythms to work effectively.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of other reasons why natural light can improve productivity in the workplace. But the ones we’ve chatted about today are arguably the most pressing!
If you can, try to get near a window while you’re working today. And if you can’t, do some exercise outside. You never know, your improved productivity might just land you that all-important promotion.