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Windowless Offices Bad for Sleep: How to Shine Light on Employees

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on August 19, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's only mid-August, and the days are getting shorter already. I'm noticing it's darker out at my usual wake up time, and I'm thankful that I invested in my Philips Wake-Up Light so I can awake not only to bright light, but also the sound of birds chirping (kind of like this gal).

But seriously, anyone who feels the slightest effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder knows the impact of light on sleep. Now, a new study takes it a bit further -- into the workplace.

Importance of Sleep, Impact of No Windows

Sleep has always been regarded as important, but it's now having a "moment" with Arianna Huffington leading the march to more sleep in her book "Thrive." The amount of sleep one gets reflects on her overall health and well-being.

A new study, soon to be reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, reveals that people who work in windowless offices were less physically active, and got less sleep, than people who were exposed to daylight during working hours. On average, workers exposed to daylight received 46 minutes more sleep on any given night, reports Fast Company.

Study leader and architectural scholar Mohamed Boubekri chose to focus on office buildings. Why? "We really wanted to look at some health issues related to lack of natural light in people's lives in general, [and] that's where most of us spend a good chunk of our lives," Bouberki told Fast Company.

How to Give Your Employees More Light

So what does this mean for you and your firm? Knocking down walls and adding windows is probably not in your budget. Here are some wallet-friendly ways to encourage, or help, your employees to get more daylight:

  1. Lift the shades. If you have windows in your office building, make the most of them. Lift up the shades to let as much light as you can in. Just be mindful that you may need to invest in some anti-glare shades for computer screens.
  2. Encourage outdoor breaks. Encourage your employees to take their breaks outdoors, or in parts of the building accessible to natural light.
  3. Install lighting. You can install lighting that mimics natural light like the ones used by people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Consult the Mayo Clinic for tips on buying the right light for your needs.
  4. Decorate to your advantage. You can also use office decor to your advantage. Forbes discusses some companies that display art/graphics that connote movement and create energy, while others bring elements of nature inside to "brighten[] up the place."

Like ergonomics, adding more daylight to your office is an effective and relatively easy way to increase employee productivity and happiness -- and all without having to hire a Chief Happiness Officer.

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