Over the last two decades, businesses around the world have experimented with a number of techniques, strategies and systems aimed at improving productivity and increasing total output.
The results, for the most part, have been mixed: some strategies have been effective, while others – such as open offices, which are often less productive than traditional workplaces – have been less effective.
Productivity factors can be divided into several different categories. Systems have an effect on productivity, as does technology. A final category is environment – the setting in which people work and create – which is in many ways just as powerful.
While a great environment can inspire productivity and increase output, the wrong work environment can result in distraction, lack of focus and low quality work that reduces your business’s total output and affects its income.
Natural light is one of the most important environmental elements for optimal work productivity. In this guide, we’ll look at three factors of natural light that make it an important element for keeping your workplace as productive as possible.
Proximity to a source of natural light
One of the most important aspects of using natural light to improve productivity is proximity. People that work close to a source of natural light, such as a window or skylight, experience a greater boost in productivity than people far from it.
Many businesses make the mistake of assuming that they’re benefiting from natural light because a small number of their employees work in a space that’s lit naturally, all the while ignoring the larger number of employees in artificially lit areas.
Proximity to a source of natural light has a huge effect on productivity. The greater the amount of natural light compared to light from other sources, the greater your workplace’s improvement in productivity and total output will be.
When you’re implementing natural lighting in your office, don’t just focus on using natural light in some level – focus on making sure that all people are located within 20 feet of a source of natural light, whether it’s an exterior window or a skylight.
This will result in the greatest improvement in productive output, employee health and focus at the lowest relative cost, giving your business the best bang for its buck in terms of productivity and output.
Quality and consistency of natural light
Not all natural light is equally helpful for productivity. Low quality or inconsistent light – for example, a natural light source that only provides functional light for an hour or two daily – is unlikely to have a major positive effect on productivity.
On the other hand, a large window or skylight that provides your workplace with a steady stream of natural light from early in the morning until the late evening is an excellent source of healthy, productive light.
The size of your windows and skylights matters a great deal. While even a smaller skylight will let some light in, it won’t have as much of a positive impact on output and productivity than a large skylight that provides a greater amount of light.
Don’t just focus on providing natural light in a limited quantity – focus on providing the maximum level of natural light that’s possible within the restrictions of the office or building your business operates in so that your productivity is maximized.
Amount of natural vs. artificial light
It’s not just the amount of natural light that affects your office’s productive output – it’s also the quantity of natural light compared to the quantity of artificial light that your employees are exposed to.
A small amount of natural light mixed in with bright, fluorescent office lighting has a very limited impact on productivity and health – one that’s often outweighed by the negative effects of using large-scale artificial lighting in your workplace.
When designing an office lighting layout, it’s important to not just focus on natural light as an afterthought. Fail to prioritize natural light and you could end up with an office that’s only partially lit by sunlight and heavily dependent on artificial lighting.
Instead, make natural light your priority from the beginning and think of artificial lighting as a complementary source of light, not a primary source. This will result in the greatest improvements in productivity, employee health and alertness.