Working in the light

The average person spends 99,000 hours at work in their lifetime. That is a sizeable portion of your life and if you work in an office you obviously want that office environment to be as pleasant as possible. However, there is more to comfort than a plush chair and a trendy coffee machine. True comfort includes a workspace that supports your health and a new study has found that an essential part of that is being exposed to daylight.

The study included workers who were in offices with extensive windows and also those who were in offices with no windows. The participants wore a device on their wrist that measured light exposure, activity, and sleep. The wrist devices were data loggers that record both motion and levels of light illumination. Additionally the people completed surveys to measure quality of life and quality of sleep.

The results showed that people with windows in the workplace received 173 per cent more exposure to white light during working hours. Those with windows also slept on average 46 minutes more per night than those not exposed to natural light in the workplace. Additionally, there was a trend for people in offices with windows to engage in more physical activity than those without windows. Workers without windows (now there’s a slogan just waiting to be put on a t-shirt) scored lower on overall vitality and wellbeing.

It might seem odd at first that windows in your office space relate to how much you are sleeping. However, there is increasing evidence that exposure to light during the day, and especially in the morning has an effect on your body clock and so impacts your mood, metabolism, and levels of alertness. For instance in April this year we reported on a study from the journal PLoS ONE which showed that people who have most of their exposure to light earlier in the day were also more likely to be slimmer and have a low BMI.

As far as the raised levels of exercise go it might also be that just being able to see outside reminds you of what you could be doing out there in that wonderful world.

According to these researchers to get the benefit of light from windows you need to be within 7-8 metres of the window, but beyond that the daylight penetration is not enough to have effects. It’s not always easy but if you possibly can, let the sunshine in.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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