Many of us take for granted that we work in a room where natural light enters. In this article, find out about the many surprising pros and cons of natural light. Along with that, discover how it could benefit or hinder your performance while you work or study in a room. Some of them may even shock you! Let’s dive right in!
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Pros and cons of natural light
Below is a list of the advantages and disadvantages of working and being exposed to natural light:
Advantages of natural light
- Increases productivity
- Reduces drowsiness in workers
- Leads to fewer headaches
- Improves mood
- Decreases eye strain
- Helps increase exposure to vitamin D
- Improves quality of sleep
- Helps to warm up the room
- Reduced lighting cost
- Reduces heating costs
- Environmentally friendly
- Helps prevent mold
- Greater connection to the outdoors
Disadvantages of natural light
- Can cause glare, especially on screens
- Can lead to excess heat in your room
- Can lead to excess light in their room
- Difficult to control levels of light in room
- Can increase cost of cooling bills
- Can create distraction during sunny weather
- Can lead to skin damage
A study has shown that working in an office with natural lighting can decrease eyestrain by 51% and improves your quality of sleep. Source
It may not have dawned on you that there are so many advantages and disadvantages to working in sunlight. With that being the case, let’s have a deeper look and see how many benefits we can reap from working in direct sunlight. More importantly, what precautions do we need to take to protect ourselves if we are working in sunlight?
Advantages of natural light
Natural light increases productivity
According to a case study by Dr. Alan Hedge on the impact of daylight in the workplace, exposure to sunlight has been shown to increase the productivity of workers by about 2%.
This could equate to an extra $100,000 per year of value per 100 workers.
Either way, if you’re working for yourself, increased productivity is likely something you’ll jump at!
Natural light reduces drowsiness in workers
Reduced drowsiness was another effect reported by 56% of workers who were involved in the study. Drowsiness would in turn contribute to decreased productivity.
Therefore, simply exposing yourself to optimal lighting levels can help banish the sluggish feelings.
Natural light leads to fewer headaches
Workers involved in the study reported 63% fewer headaches compared to their coworkers who had no exposure to daylight while working.
This leads to a happier and healthier workforce who are more capable and willing to work.
Natural light improves mood
It’s no surprise that people in general tend to be in a better mood on a sunny day. The same principle applies to people working in an office or room where exposure to sunlight exists.
Furthermore, exposure to natural light can help prevent the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the winter blues.
You can also benefit from feeling more energized and attentive by having optimal lighting levels in your work area.
Natural light decreases eye strain
By using natural light, workers experienced 51% less eye strain from artificial light. Natural light tends to cause less strain on the eyes. Furthermore, it’s less likely to cause glare from direct lighting.
Fluorescent lights are attributed to causing eye strain.
Therefore, if you can turn off the lights for period of time while the sunlight is brightening up the room, this would give your eyes a break from the light.
Helps increase exposure to vitamin D
Vitamin D can be found in food, but did you know that another source of this vitamin is through exposure to sunlight?
By working in the room where sunlight penetrates through, people can naturally and effortlessly increase their exposure to vitamin D.
Vitamin D is associated with preventing bone loss, reducing the risk of heart disease, weight gain and numerous types of cancer.
Natural light improves quality of sleep
A study compared the sleep patterns of similar work groups where one work group had exposure to natural light and the other had no exposure to natural light while working.
The study found that people who were not exposed to natural light while working slept an average of 46 minutes less than the workers who had natural light exposure while working.
On top of that, they also experienced poorer quality of sleep.
We all know that working when tired leads to poorer performance.
Evidently, exposure to natural light while working can lead to an improved work performance and increased productivity.
Tip: If you do not have exposure to sunlight in your home/work area, take regular breaks to expose yourself to natural light.
Natural light helps to warm up the room
Natural light, particularly from sunlight shining in your window, helps to warm up the room. This is a welcome invite, especially in the winter and during cold days.
While it may only heat up the room for a number of hours, depending on what direction your window is facing, it can save you from turning on the heating for a few hours.
Leaving your curtains or blinds open during the day allows the heat from the sunlight to warm up the room and take the chill out of the air.
Natural light reduces light costs
By making greater use of natural light, there will be occasions when you don’t need to have your artificial lighting turned on.
This can shave dollars off your lighting bill throughout the year.
If this applies to more than one room, this could add up to a sizable saving over time.
Natural light reduces heating costs
If the sunlight entering your room helps to heat up the room, you can also leave the heating turned off for a period of time through the day. This will also help to reduce heating costs for the room.
This is particularly true if you are working in a south facing room during the day. West and east facing windows also experience sunlight at certain periods throughout the day.
However, north facing rooms tend to receive the least amount of sun. Therefore, they may not warm up until later in the day.
Natural light is environmentally friendly
The impact of using less lighting and heat makes for a more environmentally friendly approach to working.
This is a simple, yet effective step towards a green office or workplace!
Natural light helps prevent mold
In addition to having fresh air entering your room, natural sunlight can also prevent the development of mold in the room.
Mold tends to thrive in dark areas.
So, by allowing natural light and air into your room, they both are an excellent natural means of preventing the development of mold on your precious walls, furniture and clothing.
Greater connection to the outdoors
Having a connection to the outdoors, whether it’s by means of sunlight entering the room or having an unobstructed view of the outdoors can put people in a state of relaxation.
Workers in rooms with windows also tend to have reduced stress levels.
Therefore, having some natural light entering the room will holistically lead to a happier and healthier workforce.
Besides, if you’re working in a room for more than a third of the day, having optimal conditions is going to be important!
Disadvantages of natural light
Can cause glare, especially on screens
While natural sunlight doesn’t tend to cause as much glare as artificial lighting, it can still lead to glare. This is particularly true if the sun shines on your computer screens or devices.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to control the level of light entering the room.
You can invest in the likes of blinds, solar shades and even smart windows to control the amount of light from outside penetrating into your home office.
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Can lead to excess heat in room
While natural sunlight heating up the room can be advantageous during cold weather, it can be a nuisance if you’re in very hot or warm climate.
This can make the room uncomfortable to work in. It may also lead to sluggishness if is too hot.
If you have air conditioning or even a fan, this won’t be as much of a problem.
But if you don’t, excess heat can be difficult to remove from a room.
Can lead to excess light in room
The strength of the sun can get rather strong and tends to be strongest in the middle of the day. If you have been working in your room for enough amount of time, you will become accustomed to the times of the day when the sunlight enters your room and impacts on you most.
The amount of natural lighting can enter your room depends on the type of windows and location of your windows.
Furthermore, depending on where your desk or workstation is located, it may make it difficult to see what you’re performing if the sun is in your eyes.
Difficult to control levels of light in room
If your room or office is not equipped with the appropriate means of controlling the sunlight penetrating the area, it can be difficult to manage lighting levels to make it comfortable.
Solutions which can be employed to control the glare and incoming sunlight include:
- Venetian blinds
- Solar shades
- Window films
- Switchable windows
However, these obviously require investment. Plus, some of them are rather expensive than others.
The top end smart solutions for managing sunlight entering the room include smart windows and solar shades.
These options allow you to control light levels without completely blocking off the room.
Solar shades and smart windows even offer UV protection which is important if you sit directly in front of a window or in the direct line of the sunlight.
Can increase cost of cooling bills
With excess heat in the room, the desire and need to cool the room down becomes prevalent. It may be difficult to cool the room down, unless you have air conditioning, or other form of ventilation installed in the room.
If air conditioning units or fans are being used to cool the room down, these can increase the cost of your energy bills.
Air conditioning units tend to be heavy on electricity and can considerably increase the cost of bills.
If you have air conditioning running 8 hours a day for a month, this could equate to an average bill of between $14.40 to $211.20 per month.
Furthermore, the cost of investing in an air conditioning unit isn’t exactly cheap either.
However, it’s obviously an investment if you need to install some form of ventilation in the room or you are frequently exposed to cold or warm temperatures or climates.
Can create distraction during sunny weather
Sunny weather brings the desire to go outside and bask in the sunny weather. This may mean that your attention to your work and your desire to stay indoors drops.
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t feel like working indoors with the sunny weather calls.
I recall many summers when I had exams. Since sunny weather only tends to appear around exam season (very annoying BTW), I ended up having to study outside so that I could embrace some of the nice weather.
Although this can be an option for some people, not all work can be performed outdoors, and you may find your productivity and motivation dips during the good weather.
Tip: Closing the blinds can help you feel less distracted by the weather.
Natural light can lead to skin damage
Exposure to sunlight could expose you to UVA and UVB rays. You can suffer from skin damage, even through a window. Most windows will block out UVB rays which are attributed to causing burns and tanning your skin.
However, most glass doesn’t block UVA rays.
The UVA rays can penetrate through the glass and cause sun damage, skin aging, wrinkles and even cancer.
UVA rays may give a false sense of security because they don’t leave any visible damage, such as burns or tan.
Therefore, you might not realize that your skin is being damaged.
If you are working in a room which is lit by sunlight, it’s unlikely that you will experience skin damage.
However, if you are positioned beside a window and direct sunlight is shining on you, precautions should be taken to prevent skin damage.
Such precautions include applying SPF sunscreen or applying a window filter that blocks out UVA rays. Source
Alternatively, to minimize the sun shining on your skin, you could consider closing the blinds.
Otherwise, you can get out of the sun by sitting in a different area or performing different tasks to get you out of the direct sunlight.
Solar shades and smart windows can also prevent UV rays from causing damage.
Tip: Windows in your home, office and even your car can be tinted to prevent UVA rays entering and causing skin damage.
The advantages of working in natural light tend to outweigh the disadvantages of natural light. Not only are there health benefits to working in natural light, but there are also environmental and productivity advantages too.
However, there are some negative attributes associated with working in a room which allows natural light in. Fortunately, these challenges can be managed relatively easily.
Most people tend to prefer working in a room which has a window to allow access to natural light.
Fortunately, most offices have a window. However, if you don’t have a window in your home office, you may start to feel the effects of it.
Do you prefer working in natural light? Or do you find that it distracts you? Let me know in the comments below.