After a long day working in an office with dull, artificial lighting, many of us are relieved to step outside and get some natural sun exposure.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, working without natural light actually has a far greater impact than just affecting our moods.
In fact, it can also be detrimental to our health, well-being and our overall productivity in the workplace.
Results gathered by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign show that office workers with more light exposure get longer sleep, partake in more physical activity and lead a better quality of life compared with those who get very little light in their offices.
These findings were reached following an investigation of 49 day-shift office workers – 27 who worked in windowless office buildings and 22 in workplaces with windows.
Employees in close vicinity to windows received 173% more white light exposure during their working hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than those who were light-deprived in their office environment.
They also showed higher scores on quality of life measures linked to physical ailments and vitality.
Study author, Mohamed Boubekri, said: “Workers are a group at risk because they are typically indoors often without access to natural or even artificial bright light for the entire day.
“The study results confirm that light during the natural daylight hours has powerful effects on health.”
Extensive research has already linked exposure to light in the day to improved health, and morning light in particular has been shown to significantly improve mood, metabolism and alertness.
This new study however suggests that creating natural light in offices needs to be a bigger priority for architectural designs of office buildings. It is proposed workplaces should be built so that desks are positioned within 20 to 25 feet from windows.
Boubekri added: “Architects need to be aware of the importance of natural light not only in terms of their potential energy savings but also in terms of affecting occupants’ health.”