How natural light can make your office a better place to work

With this having been one of the hottest and sunniest summers Britain has ever had, many employers will have had offices full of people extremely keen to get outside as much as possible.

However, while spending lunchtimes outdoors – maybe in the nearby park or on the lawn outside (if your office has one) – will appeal to lots of folk, the fact remains that being inside for hours and missing out on the sun will be a disappointment and potentially a distraction to some staff.

Of course, you can’t suddenly relocate your computers, phones and desks into the car park, so it is a good idea to do whatever is possible to ensure plenty of the light gets inside, so that the feel-good effects of the sunshine and all that vitamin D can still help create a ‘sunny’ disposition among your staff.

Consider your resources

There are three factors governing how much natural light your office workers will receive. The first of these is the amount of window space you have. Large, floor-to-ceiling windows or even a whole building plated in glass are ideal for horizontal light, while a skylight can add more if your office is just below a roof.

Secondly, unless you occupy a whole floor of an open-plan building, an office may be more or less favourably located in relation to the position of the sun. The best scenario is for it to face south, where the sun will be visible in working hours.

Of course, both of these are contingent features that you may not be able to do much about, unless you own the building and are able to make major structural adjustments such as knocking through a wall, installing a skylight or enlarging window space.

Rearranging the furniture

The third factor is the positioning of work stations. This is the area where you have most control. Ideally, as many people as possible should be working close to windows in order to maximise the light. If one side of the office is mainly in shadow, that may be used for other purposes, such as meetings or as a games area, where less light reflecting off a screen would be welcome.

Anti-glare screens are also useful for any devices you do have for when the sun reflects off them, and it is important to bear in mind seasonal differences, with the sun in summer often out of direct sight because it is so high in the sky. As autumn arrives, that will be less true, so blinds will be important at some times to prevent dazzling.

Don’t be S.A.D in winter

Perhaps most importantly, when winter comes the need to keep the office as light as possible is crucial. In the week before Christmas, there are less than eight hours between sunrise and sunset in London, and much less in more northerly parts of Britain.

Some people suffer from seasonally affective disorder – or S.A.D – a condition in which the lack of light in winter lowers mood and causes lethargy. Those with severe conditions may need to sit by a special ultraviolet lamp during the hours of darkness, but milder cases may be helped by getting as much natural light as possible.

Indeed, while it is always good to encourage staff to make sure they take their full lunch breaks and do not overwork, winter will offer an extra reason, as getting outdoors for an hour is a good way to absorb much-needed vitamin D at a time when it is scarce.

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