Are you drowning your workforce in darkness? - By Barry Wood

How important is daylight?

Daft question right ? Everyone knows daylight is vital for life. But why? If it is so important what effects can working in an office with no natural light for 8 hours a day have upon the body? Well lets see if we can answer some of the questions. 

'Light is critical for our health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we receive adequate light levels at the appropriate time of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep patterns and many aspects of our physiology,' says Dr Victoria Revell, a chronobiologist at the University of Surrey. This is also evident in winter when daylight becomes less abundant. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a disorder where people feel symptoms of depression. Although all the causes are not fully known it is strongly linked to a reduction in exposure to sunlight. When we get enough sunlight our body regulates itself efficiently by producing melatonin. A hormone which regulates sleep. Another hormone which can be effected by daylight exposure is serotonin. This hormone is responsible for our mood. Reduction in daylight is linked to a reduction in serotonin and a negative response in your mood. For the body to regulate its sleep pattern efficiently and for you to feel happy, daylight exposure is paramount. 

So with knowing all the benefits of daylight exposure, and knowing the negative effects of a reduction in daylight, why do we place ourselves in an artificial winter? By working long hours in a dim and dull office we are making everyday, regardless of the time of year a perpetual winter. Even worst, the artificial lights used in many office buildings can reduce the body's production of melatonin and according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, “exposure to certain types of electric light before bed can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.” 

Now I know it is not possible to rip up your computer and drag it outside to work. Or in factory work, possible to complete your work anywhere else apart from inside. But there are certain things that can help. Firstly, and the easiest thing to do is get outside when you can. Any break that you have however short, get outside. Whether it is eating your lunch, going for a walk or just sitting outside, leave your workspace for some time outside whenever possible! Secondly is plan your day so you can maximise your time outside. This may mean walking to work in the sunshine rather than taking your car or a bus. Or if you do take a bus get off a stop early and spend that extra time walking to work in the day light. Not only will you get more time outside but you will also be increasing your physical activity. 

Now as an employer you can make it mandatory for people to take their breaks in the daylight. remember you are responsible for their health and wellbeing, so simple but effective policies like this can make a real difference. When planning the layout of the office or work environment make sure where possible employees are sat next to a window to increase day light exposure. A recent study found that employees exposed to only daylight were 47% more productive than their counter parts who were only exposed to artificial light. Not only are you looking after your employees health but you are actively making your workforce more productive and efficient. 

So pretty simple, if you are feeling down, having trouble sleeping even though you are tired, less productive at work or having trouble focusing, the solution may be as easy as spending more time outside. 

Barry Wood 

Seven Hills Fitness