If you have ever worked in a space without a window, you already know how artificial light can play games on your head. Science has concluded that our bodies crave natural light, like plants to the sun. Without access to the outside world, you lose a sense of time and you may even start to lose a sense of yourself.
One Cornell study found that employees who did not have access to natural light were drowsier at work and reported bigger eyestrain. The artificial space also messes with our memory. We set our internal clocks to natural light; without it, it becomes harder for us to remember tasks, as one study found.
That’s why it is not surprising that a new study found we rank it highest in our hierarchy of needs — above fun perks or helpful benefits like onsite childcare. In a poll of 1,614 North American employees by human resources firm Future Workplace, the researchers found that natural light with a view of the outdoors was the top desire employees wanted fulfilled, outranking swanky onsite cafeterias, fitness centers, and onsite childcare.
Why we need natural light at work
Almost half — 47% — of employees surveyed said they felt tired from not having natural light or a window at their office. Those with a window reported being happy (78%), satisfied with their work (73%), and feeling a higher level of commitment to the role (54%) because of the natural light.
The study demonstrates that natural light is more of a basic need, less of a fun perk. You cannot worry about getting fit and eating healthy at your office if your brain is too tired to focus. You cannot ask for better childcare benefits if your workplace makes it hard to first take care of yourself.