Let there be light

When I worked in a corporate office, it would have been easier to find the holy grail than secure a permanent window seat. To be in with the slightest shot of access to daylight when there was a desk reshuffle, you’d have to be very senior (or bribe someone very senior), charm the facilities manager with an array of bakery products, and simultaneously get a blessing from the Pope

As a SAD-sufferer shoved into a dark corner, I relied on a daylight lamp to stay vaguely sane during the long days at work, much to the amusement of many colleagues. Now, as a freelancer with a panoramic view of my own garden, I have all the daylight I need to stay healthy. Winters have literally never been so much fun.

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Daylight saving

What does every workplace need? No, not a massive slide, retro chairs and a pinball machine…but natural light.

There’s unfortunately a legacy of dark, dated offices in the UK, but developers of new buildings can embrace the fact that natural light is hugely beneficial to both employees and businesses.

Real Business reports that: “Natural light enhances concentration, creativity and learning – all of which are crucial for workplace productivity. Studies have shown that workers with good access to natural light have increased their productivity by up to 40%.”

And according to the UK’s Green Building Council (GBC), the evidence is unequivocal: “Office occupants prefer access to windows and daylight, which bring consistent benefits in terms of satisfaction and health. In a recent study, office workers with windows received 173% more white light exposure during work hours, and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.

“Workers without windows reported poorer scores than their counterparts on ‘quality of life’ measures related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction.”

Room with a view

And then there’s the vista to consider. The GBC continues: “Ideally views should be aesthetically pleasing, and there is good evidence that shows the benefits to occupants are particularly strong if the view features nature. This is an example of biophilia – the relationship between nature and humans, which suggests that because humans are intrinsically ‘of nature’, we need contact with the natural environment to sustain our health and wellbeing.”

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Ok, so very few of us are lucky enough to have a stunning view of the natural world from our workspaces. But you don’t have to look out over Kew Gardens to reap the benefits. Any view is better than no view. The GBC adds: “Longer distance views, away from computer screens or written documents, allow the eyes to adjust and re-focus, which reduces fatigue, headaches and the effects of eye strain. In the long term, views also have a positive impact on wellbeing, in part by providing a psychological connection with other groups of people while in a safe space, satisfying an instinctive human need.”

So there you have it. If you’re in the process of designing or building your own workspace at home, make the natural world a key part of it. If this isn’t an option for you right now, at least try to get outside for a lunchtime walk every day.

NHS information on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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