How light affects your performance at work

10 Jan 2020

What’s your favourite thing about your office? Most people might think of the cutting-edge design, the onsite cafe, or maybe just the location.

However, one of the most important factors affecting your productivity and happiness often gets overlooked. Your exposure to light.

Why is bad lighting at work a problem?

Poor lighting is associated with a range of ill-health effects, both physical and mental.

Lack of sufficient light has also been linked with vitamin D deficiency, weight gain, fatigue and depression. Even if you don’t suffer from SAD (a clinically diagnosed condition caused by a lack of sunlight) it’s very common to feel flat and unwell in poorly lit offices in the dark winter months.

Most importantly, your light exposure during the day has a significant impact on how well you sleep at night. Light regulates the hormones that control your energy levels and sleep patterns. Put simply, getting a good night’s sleep depends on a healthy relationship with light.

The evidence

More and more studies are proving the link between light intake and productivity.

For example, in a recent study by Cornell University, researchers found that nurses who had access to natural light performed better than nurses who worked mostly in artificial light. They also showed signs of better physical health; they laughed more, they were nicer to their patients and they had significantly lower blood pressure.

Researchers at the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago concluded that there is a strong relationship between daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.

And in another study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, researchers found that workers in offices with windows enjoyed an average of 46 minutes more sleep per night than their counterparts in windowless offices.

So what can you do to boost your productivity?

Unfortunately, many people are not in control of their own working environment. And most of us have to be at our desk on time regardless of the dark winter mornings.

So here are some practical tips that anyone can follow for improving your light intake:

Get outside

Even on a cloudy day the light outside is 50x brighter than the average office. Go for a walk at lunchtime, change your commute, exercise outdoors. However you manage it, getting outdoors will make you feel more awake and boost your mood.

Invest in a SAD lamp or circadian lighting

If your work, family or social life don’t allow much time to be outside, then you might want to think about investing in a SAD lamp. Even better, you could talk to your facility managers about installing Human Centric Lighting. These systems change the colour and intensity of light throughout the day for a healthier environment for everyone in the office.

Understand your own sleep-wake cycle and light habits

To effectively change your behaviour, it’s important to first understand yourself and your daily habits. LYS’s research and wearable technology helps you track and analyse your light intake. Our wellbeing programmes will also help you learn about the idiosyncrasies of your own circadian rhythm, your “chronotype”, and then help you adapt and improve your behaviour.

As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is becoming more and more clear that natural light should be one of their first considerations. Find out more about LYS can help you improve your light habits here.