Windowless Offices, Poorer Sleep

Windowless offices and other workplace factors might have a greater effect on your health than some of the superficial employer wellness plans we’ve seen. More and more data is bringing attention to the need for thoughtful design of the work environment for optimal health.

A new study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine finds that workers in windowless work environments had less vitality, more physical limitations, poorer sleep quality, and less sleep. As a group, those who worked in a windowless environment got an average of 46 fewer minutes of sleep each night.

Another study, published in Health Environments Research and Design, found that nurses working in an environment with windows and natural light had lower blood pressure, less sleepiness, better mood, and more engagement in communication and laughter than those who did not. This sort of evidence explains why healthy work environments are a key advocacy priority for the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Both staff and patients benefit from a healthier work environment, but the conditions remain extremely variable.

Meanwhile active design strategies are gaining prominence as a means for promoting a healthy work and community environment. Researchers are struggling to keep up with methods to measure their impact on health outcomes.

So, many employers are innovating to ensure they provide work environments that promote health. Trying to shift blame and penalties onto employees is looking more and more regressive.

Click here for the study of windowless offices, here for the study of the impact of natural light on nurses, and here for more on active design from NPR.

Working, photograph © Stella Hwang / flickr

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