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The benefits of natural light in the office

Intelligent Glass, experts in Switchable Smart Glass technology, have explored how better natural light can help to boost employee wellness – and in turn boost business productivity and profitability.

12/01/2021 4 min read

The new normal

Current data also suggests that around 60% of UK office workers wish to alternate between working from home and the office when it is safe to do so. Many businesses will likely be forced to revisit previous flexible working policies conscious of the lack of appetite for the five day working week in the office amongst employees.

But the office will always remain. It just needs to be reimagined.

Focus on employee health

Safe working is essential for offices in the current climate. Changes include desk spacing, hygiene measures, cleaning procedures, a clutter-free space, and a change of mindset towards employee health and safety.

The mental health of employees is also crucial and has been a key topic during the pandemic. Some people have thrived working from home, others may have experienced loneliness and isolation, as well as increased anxiety. Employee mental health must be a key consideration for the offices of the future and increased natural light can play an important role in this.

The importance of natural light

According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, natural light in the morning can significantly improve mental well-being in relation to depression, agitation, sleep, circadian rest-activity, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But how does this translate to office spaces?

Employees want natural light in the office

The first thing to note is that natural light is something employees want and feel they need at work.

One study found that it was the number one office perk desired by staff, while the Future Workplace Employee Experience Study found that 78% of employees feel that it improves their well-being, while 70% cited it as assisting with improved performance at work.

The benefits of natural light in the office

But is this actually the case? And what are the key benefits of natural light for both employee well-being and performance?

1. Natural light is a mood booster

Research from the Northwestern University of Chicago found that natural light boosts the mood of employees. A lack of sunlight is thought to impact the hypothalamus which is the part of the brain that affects the production of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which regulate sleeping and waking cycles and in effect act as the body’s internal clock. The crucial bit for employee mood is that these are the same natural substances which play a part in combating seasonal affective disorder.

So, more light means better mood amongst your workforce. And happier employees mean more productive and focused workers.

2. Natural light helps with sleep

Just as melatonin and serotonin play a part in mood, they also impact sleep. Again, according to the Northwestern University of Chicago and one of their studies, employees with better access to natural light slept for an average of 46 minutes more each night. And with a better night’s sleep behind them, it means higher levels of concentration and an increased ability to focus on work.

3. A light space is a creative space

Workers in lighter spaces are 15% more creative. Spaces packed with light and greenery encourage thinking, reflection and an ability to step away from the day to day for more blue- sky creativity.

A dingy office is a real creativity killer. This is the thinking behind Amazon’s workplace in downtown Seattle – the Spheres – which houses a curated jungle with over 40,000 plants. This is a space packed with natural light and one where ideas are surely born.

4. Vitamin D levels will improve in an office packed with natural light

The more light coming into your office, the more access to vitamin D you provide to your workers. Vitamin D is essential for good health, in that it aids healthy bones, teeth and muscles. Whilst this is great for overall health, vitamin D has also been shown to play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. That’s a boost for both the physical and mental health of your employees. Now that will likely translate into a happier and more focused workforce.

5. Natural light improves the vision of your employees

A 2018 study found that workers exposed to natural light enjoyed a 51% reduction in eyestrain, 63% reduction of headaches and a 56% reduction in drowsiness.

If your employees are more comfortable in front of a screen, they will be more effective, productive and high-performing.

 

Bringing more natural light into the office with Switchable Smart Glass

So, how do you reimagine your office environment and pack it with natural light? Yes, we can’t all create indoor rainforests and jungles, but there are changes you can make.

Switchable Smart Glass already plays a valuable role in offices and will continue to do so as we find our feet in the new normal. As the name suggests, Switchable Smart Glass can be switched from frosted to clear offering privacy on demand via a wall switch, remote or even voice control… “Alexa, switch my glass!”

Whilst it provides complete privacy, the difference from blinds or curtains is that it allows plenty of diffused light to pass through even when frosted – this is as high as 60%. So even when you’re opting for a little in-office privacy you still get the benefit of natural light flooding into the office space.

It also plays a valuable role in ensuring office hygiene as it can be much easier to keep clean and disinfected compared to blinds or curtains. Throw in the thermal, solar and sound insulation benefits and it provides the perfect solution for the modern office in these challenging times.

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