And the boss said, "Let there be light." Just kidding. Kind of. In all seriousness, Harvard Business Review recently published an article that references a research poll of 1,614 employees who ranked natural light and "views of the outdoors" as the most important aspects of a workplace, ahead of luxuries like on-site fitness or child care centers.
That's really saying a lot, and kudos to HBR for reaffirming something important that we don't think about often enough. Out of sight, out of mind, and that goes for sunlight as well, resulting in societies across the world that spend most of their time indoors, and are paying the price in vitamin D deficiency.
It raises an interesting question.
Can businesses become vitamin D deficient, too?
In 1983, Lockheed Martin opened the doors of a new building for engineers and support staff. The building was designed for energy-conscious daytime lighting. The authors of a report that tracked productivity in the new space concluded that there was a 15 percent productivity gain directly due to "visual acuity and thermal comfort." They saved about half a million on energy bills in the first year, too, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Just imagine, if the yearly payroll was $150 million, a 15 percent productivity gain would've saved the company over $22 million. Annually.
Some skeptics may not be convinced, but the evidence continues to mount in favor of naturally lit workspaces. Two studies by the Heschong Mahone Group (granted, there may be a bit of bias involved, given that HMG is an energy efficiency consultancy) showed that natural light could positively affect standardized test scores by as much as 26 percent, and that checkout counter sales could be up to 40 percent higher if the counter was beneath a skylight.
Want more? Here's Psychology Today referencing a study in which employees exposed to more daylight reported better sleep, less daytime dysfunction, and better quality of life.
All in all, there's a reason that top-tier organizations tend to occupy buildings with lush common spaces, filled with greenery and access to natural light--and it's not because they're trying to one-up the competition. They simply know that happy, healthy employees work harder.
Something to think about, not only for established companies looking for ways to increase productivity but also for startups eyeing a move into brick-and-mortar.
And if you really want to offer a competitive benefits package, throw in some free sunscreen, too.