The desk facing a window or corner office with amazing views have always topped the list of things workers want most from their workspaces. But these views and exposure to natural light are a lot more important than a show of achievement -- it's become an issue of public health.
A team of architects and medial researchers joined forces for a small study which was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. They compared people who are exposed to natural light at work to those who aren't, and found that those who do have windows in their workspaces sleep an average of 46 minutes more a night than those in windowless workspaces.
"We really wanted to look at some health issues related to lack of natural light in people's lives in general," the study's lead Mohamed Boubekri, an architectural scholar at the University of Illinois, told Fast Company. "The reason why we selected office buildings is because … that's where most of us spend a good chunk of our lives."
The 27 participants who had windowless offices, or worked so far from a window that they didn't get any natural light, scored worse than the 22 workers who received daylight on all eight dimensions of a health survey called Short Form 36. Those with windowless offices reported having worse sleep quality and less vitality.
The researchers went beyond the self-reporting and had 21 of the participants wear a watch that tracks light exposure and activity patterns. The data confirmed that those who receive less daylight throughout the day are less physically active and sleep an average of 46 minutes less on work nights than those who received ample daylight.
On the other hand, the windowless workers slept more on non-work nights than window workers -- about two hours more a night (8.5 hours vs. 6.5 hours). Those in the window group also received more natural light outside of work hours. Researchers speculate that by getting more daylight while at work, this group simply has more energy to spend time outside in their off time.
"Some say we spend 90% of our lives indoors," Boubekri said. "It's very, very significant."
He suggests that architects and designers concentrate on creating office buildings with ample natural light. "In an era where we're trying to limit consumption of fossil energy resources, we really should be thinking in a different way about these things. Not just using electric light to light our lives."