Office Design and Workplace Wellbeing

If you were to conduct a survey of employees asking what their number one most desired office perk would be, what would you expect from the results? Flexi-time? A free canteen? Onsite child care? A games area with pool tables, hammocks and a bar? These may all appear on a wish list but they aren’t the number one most desired office characteristic.

A recent survey carried out by an HR advisory firm, Future Workplace, of 1,614 office based employees asked a similar question: what is the most important attribute of your ideal workplace environment?

And the answer? Natural light.

The negative responses provide the insight as to why natural light is held is such high esteem: 47% of employees reported that they feel tired or very tired with the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% said they feel gloomy when there is a lack of light. With over a third of employees identifying they don’t get enough natural light in their workspace, the study concluded that the absence of natural light and outdoor views is detrimental to the employee experience.

Dr Victoria Revell from the University of Surrey provides some clinical insight into why natural light is so important:

“Light is critical for our health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we receive adequate light levels at the appropriate time of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep patterns and many aspects of our physiology.”

Artificial light is no replacement; sunlight is between 50,000 and 100,000 lux (the measurement unit of light), compared to a normal light bulb which is 250 to 500 lux. A lack of natural daylight can impact on our ability to sleep well, think clearly, our hormones and the regulation of our blood pressure and glucose levels.

When we take all of this into account it makes complete sense why so many workers would like more access to this basic human need. During the summer months we may still get enough sunlight in the mornings and evenings, but during the winter we can leave home and return from work in the dark. Couple this with the amount of daytime hours people spend in the work place and you can see why it is vital that your office design or refurbishment puts natural light at the forefront of employee health and well-being.

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