Natural Sunlight Tops Office Perk for Employees

People chose natural sunlight as a better perk than having a cafeteria at their offices. That was the result of a study called “The Employee Experience” by HR Advisory company, Future Workplace. It boils down to this: A person definitely needs to interact with the outside world, even for brief periods of time in his or her workday.

This should make employers rethink office layouts if they want their employees to be more productive. For employers who still insist on the open office concept, it’s the same thing. Employees don’t mind the open concept if there’s ample sunlight.

The study surveyed 1,614 North American employees who found the absence of natural light and outdoor views hurt their work experience. More than a third of employees feel that they don’t get enough natural light in their workspace; 47 percent of employees have said they they feel tired or left out from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43 percent report feeling gloomy because of the lack of light.

The study’s most surprising result: Natural light beats out other office perks like beer and ping-pong tables, sleeping pods, onsite cafeterias, fitness centers, bring-your-dog-to-work days and — get this — onsite childcare.

On the homefront, California Corporate Housing makes it a point to give ample natural light when it customizes apartments for its guests, many of whom work in Silicon Valley and think of work-life environments both in their home and workplace as one thing. 

In Silicon Valley where many workers spend a considerable amount of time working in front of a computer or mobile device, a visual break — gazing out to a floor-to-ceiling window with a sunny view of the park — helps immensely. Even better is how companies like Google take advantage of that year-round mild temperatures, 55 to 70 F degrees in San Jose, with their sun-drenched balconies and mini office parks.

Amazon has taken this further with The Spheres; its workspace in downtown Seattle is not only bathed in sunlight but has thousands of plants. It’s a greenhouse of an office.

Is this just like any other research? Well, another study by Cornell University Professor Dr. Alan Hedge reported how daylight office environments reduced the incidence of eyestrain by 51 percent, a 63 percent drop in the incidence of headaches and a 56 percent reduction in drowsiness.

Natural light throughout the day creates a healthier, more productive environment and makes employees happier in general. Too often, organizations design workspaces for executives with large windows while lower level employees do not have access to light. But it doesn’t have to be this way, especially in Northern California where there’s enough space for every office to think of taking in that natural light.

What companies need to do is hire an Employee Experience staff to improve work conditions like what Wework is doing. It makes a huge effort in designing co-working spaces that will help their tenants be more productive to the point where they study how people walk around their co-working spaces. Companies also need to listen to employees and hiring global mobility managers to understand what type of workplace environment is ideal for them. All too often, employers think of the bottom line.

Since companies conduct employee surveys to gather feedback about performance, it’s high time companies add studies about the type of workspace that will improve their employees’ productivity and well-being.

As employee experience becomes increasingly important to attract, engage and retain top talent, the workspace is now recognized as an integral part of this experience. Everyone likes to feel at home, whether in their home or office.

Global mobility managers would do well to take note of the importance of providing a work-life balance for many Bay Area professionals who are used to the many perks that big companies here offer. (Dennis Clemente)