Daylight matters to British workers. A lot. Recent research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has found that the top feature that people working indoors want more than anything is lots of natural light.
Coming in ahead of heating, ventilation, cleanliness or quirky office features, sunlight is the one thing that most of us want when we’re sitting at our desks, with 63% of workers saying that a naturally lit environment has a major influence on their choice of job.
A desire for natural light may have biological reasons, as a lack of sunlight causes our brains to produce more melatonin which makes us sleepy. Our health also benefits from a limited amount of regular sun as its UVB rays hitting our skin enables us to produce Vitamin D.
This vitamin is vital to our wellbeing, with studies showing that people with the lowest levels of Vitamin D have twice the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and some cancers, as well as depression and insomnia, as those people with the highest Vitamin D levels.
While our bodies cannot make Vitamin D indoors, even in offices with windows on all sides, there are ways we can maximise the ‘feel good’ factor of natural light, in and out of the office every day. Here are 4 suggestions:
Open those blinds
If you can find a happy compromise that doesn’t involve colleagues being blinded by shards of sunlight coming through the windows, try to keep those blinds up. If you open them up first thing in the morning you will all feel the benefit of daylight from the start. And given our often too-short summer time, maybe we should make the most of any sunny days we get.
Put desks sideways
If you’re able to influence where office furniture goes and have the space, try to ensure desks are sideways on to windows, as this will maximise light exposure for everyone.
Get out at lunchtime
As well as the exercise benefits of going for a brisk stroll around the block, that lunchtime walk could give you the 10-20 minutes of UVB ray exposure that your body needs.
The summer months are crucial as this is when the sun is strong enough for us to produce Vitamin D. Between March and September, from 11am to 3pm, is the time to get outdoors whenever you can.
Our skin needs a limited amount of time in the sun without sunscreen to be able to produce Vitamin D, so if you are fair skinned you’re looking at about ten minutes in the sun and if you’re tanned or darker skinned you probably need at least 20 minutes of unprotected ‘sunbathing’.
It is said that the risks of a lack of Vitamin D are greater than the risks of skin cancers from over exposure to the sun, so it’s worth trying to find a sensible way to give yourself a few minutes of daily sun worship before you slap on the SPF15.
We need to build up these Vitamin D levels for the winter months, when our bodies can’t make it from the winter sun. Another way of topping Vitamin D levels up from October to February is through a diet rich in milk, eggs, oily fish and some fortified cereals.
Park and walk
Try parking further away from work and walking the last 10-20 minutes of your journey and of course, back again after work. This will give you two good opportunities a day to get a blast of fresh air and be outdoors, whatever the weather. Then even if you don’t enjoy the best lit of offices you’ll have that time outside to help compensate for this, first and last thing.