Would you rather work at a desk right next to a window overlooking a park or inside a dimly-lit cubicle? Chances are you answered the window, right? This is because humans inherently need natural light to regulate circadian rhythms. In other words, we want it light during the day and dark during the night, so that we can maintain a healthy sleep schedule. If the office feels too dark, employees are bound to feel more drowsy, less alert, and––on average––make more mistakes. Therefore, employers have a vested interest in ensuring a brightly lit workplace for all employees.
According to Dr. Alan Hedge of Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, there are numerous benefits to having natural light in the office including “reduced eye strain, fewer reports of headaches, and improved mood.” However, the most impactful benefit of natural light is its ability to help employees sleep better. Sleep Health Journal reported that “workers who are exposed to high levels of natural light in offices reported better quality sleep compared to workers who weren’t exposed to any natural light.” The reason why restful sleep is so important is because it often translates to increased productivity during waking hours. Dr. Hedge goes on to say that “a mere 2 percent increase in productivity is the ‘equivalent of an additional $100,000 of annual value for every 100 workers’ earning an average yearly salary of $50,000.” And don't we all want to make more money by sleeping?
The problem is that not every office building is a skyrise with floor-to-ceiling windows, so employers must get creative to maximize their resources. Here are some things you can do to make your office brighter:
If you are fortunate enough to have a couple of windows in your office space, the last thing you want to do is block them with bulky furniture pieces. Chairs with high backs, partitioners, etc. obstruct light, which is not ideal if you have a dark workspace. Instead, select workstations and ancillary pieces that are low to the ground, avoid solid modular walls, and position furniture in a way that lets in light from the windows.
Wall color plays a massive role in diffusing light throughout a room. Dark colors absorb light, making the room feel even darker. Conversely, white and other light-colors reflect light which helps brighten up a space.
This tip may seem counterintuitive as a means of brightening up a space, but Luis Escobar, a flexible workplace expert, swears by it. This is because plants combat some of the effects of a dark workplace. For example, indoor plants release more oxygen into the atmosphere, making employees more awake and alert. Therefore, if you can’t bring in more natural light, you should equip your space with ample greenery.
Finally, if you have exhausted all efforts to maximize your natural light to no avail, simply purchase some high-quality artificial lights. With modern technology, there are several products on the market that can actually mimic the appearance of natural light. Insights reports that, “high (90+) CRI LED Lighting with color temperatures ranging from 5200K – 6400K is the closest artificial lighting can come to natural sunlight.”
These small changes can drastically improve the employee experience, which in turn increases profits and productivity. In summary, let there be light!