Natural light best for office workers' productivity

Natural light best for office workers' productivity

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Workers in daylit office environments tend to suffer less physical stress and tend to be more productive, according to a new study.

The Cornell University report found that in those facilities with natural light pouring in, there’s a 51 percent drop in symptoms of eyestrain and 63 percent decrease in headaches, both of which can detract from productivity.

"The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity," said Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell who conducted the research. "As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations."

With Americans on average spending more than 90 percent of their time indoors, providing the optimal amount of natural light is vital, the report said. Unfortunately, office environments pose a number of challenges. Most notably, uncontrolled natural light can cause unwanted heat that can lead to intra-office "thermostat wars" and excessive glare on occupants' eyes and computer screens. Consequently, windows are often covered with blinds or shades, contributing to poorly daylit spaces.

Hedge compared the experiences of workers in offices with traditional windows to workers in offices with auto-tinting "smart" windows that adapt to and control the sun's energy to optimize natural light and reduce glare. The smart windows were manufactured by View Dynamic Glass.

Other key findings of the study include:

  • More natural light translates to more alert employees. Workers in offices with smart glass reported a 56 percent decrease in drowsiness. 
  • Enhanced individual performance is tied to access to natural light. Workers sitting close to a window that optimized daylight exposure reported a 2 percent increase in productivity – the equivalent of an additional $100,000 per year of value for every 100 workers or around $2 million over the window's lifetime. 
  • Natural light creates a better indoor experience. Workers in offices with smart glass reported an 82 percent increase in daylight quality. Lack of daylight and access to views decreases the ability for the eye to relax and recover from fatigue. Additionally, workers in proximity to windows report 80 percent higher daylight satisfaction.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Building Owners and Managers, Daylighting / Skylights / Natural Lighting, Healthy & Comfortable Buildings, Interiors, Office Buildings, Windows - Glass and Glazing Strategies and Systems

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