Natural light increases productivity in the office: Cornell study

Ellen Cools
January 31, 2018
By
January 31, 2018 — According to a new study conducted by Alan Hedge, a professor in the department of design and environmental analysis at Cornell, workers in daylit office environments reported an 84% drop in symptoms of eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision symptoms.

“The study found that optimizing the amount of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers, leading to gains in productivity,” said Hedge. “As companies increasingly look to empower their employees to work better and be healthier, it is clear that placing them in office spaces with optimal natural light should be one of their first considerations.”

Unfortunately, Hedge says, office environments introduce a number of challenges. Most notably, uncontrolled natural light can cause unwanted heat that can lead to intra-office “thermostat wars” and excessive glare on occupants’ eyes and computer screens. Consequently, windows are often covered with blinds or shades, contributing to poorly daylit spaces.

To conduct the study, Hedge compared the experiences of workers in offices with traditional windows to workers in offices with auto-tinting “smart” windows that adapt to and control the sun’s energy to optimize natural light and reduce glare. View Dynamic Glass manufactured the smart windows.

Key findings of the study include:

• Controlled daylight unlocks significant health and wellness benefits for office workers.
• More natural light translates to more alert employees. Workers in offices with smart glass reported a 10% decrease in drowsiness.
• Enhanced individual performance is tied to access to natural light. Workers sitting close to a window that optimized daylight exposure reported a 2% increase in productivity — the equivalent of an additional $100,000/year of value for every 100 workers or around $2 million over the window’s lifetime.
• Natural light creates a better indoor experience. Workers in offices with smart glass reported a 40% increase in daylight quality. Lack of daylight from access to views decreases the ability for the eye to relax and recover from fatigue. Additionally, workers in proximity to windows report 80% higher daylight satisfaction.

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