By Gary Woolf: Managing Director, ALW

It can be said that South Africans know how to socialise, enjoy themselves and spend much of their recreational time outside enjoying the weather, however, we are also known as a hardworking and committed workforce. With many of us spending more than eight hours a day in the office, if the working space is not strategically designed to encourage positivity and productivity, employees may not be working effectively and managers may not be getting the maximum out of their talent pool.

While this may seem like a simple insight, it is one that is often missed in the working environment. One only has to look at companies that understand what drives human productivity to see that they not only get the most out of their valuable talent, but are more competitive, deliver better services and goods and generate higher income.

Do you find that your staff are constantly taking coffee breaks or balcony visits to stay energised and focused? Chances are, they’re not getting enough natural light in the work space.

One of the most striking factors influencing how well we work is the colour temperature of the light source that we’re exposed to on a regular basis. Let’s look at some research.


Natural Office Light and Productivity 

According to researchers at the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program: North Western University Chicago, there is a detrimental impact that results from working in a light deficient, windowless environment. A new study titled, “Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life,” demonstrates a definite relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep activity and quality of life.

In the study, it was revealed that workers with ample windows and natural light in the workplace received 173% more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night!

On the flip side, workers without windows and minimal exposure to natural light in the workplace reported lower scores than their counterparts on quality of life measures – related to physical problems and vitality. These workers also scored lower in overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency whilst scoring higher in the number of sleep disturbances and daytime dysfunction.

In an abstract recently published in the online supplement of the SLEEP journal, neuroscience doctoral candidate at North Western University, Ivy Cheung, states that she believes the extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable.


Daylight and our Body Clocks or Circadian Rhythms

Circadian rhythms are biological, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle and respond to light and darkness within an organism’s environment. Circadian rhythms are found in almost every living thing, including: human beings, animals, plants and even tiny microbes. The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.

Circadian rhythms are produced by natural factors in the body and are most often affected by stimuli from the environment. The main influencing factor on your body’s natural rhythm’s light. Exposure to natural light not only activates the genes that turn your body clocks “on” and “off”, but also triggers your sleep-awake cycles, releases hormones and regulates body temperature.

Disruptions in these circadian rhythms due to lack of natural light have been directly linked to sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).


Look Local

Atholl Towers, our flagship 5-Star Green Star Rated office development has been designed to offer its inhabitants ceiling-to-floor windows, fitted with imported glass which keeps the building cool during summer and warm during winter, while allowing the maximum amount of natural light into the space. Not only does the glass façade allow for beautiful natural light, but it also offers magnificent panoramic views. Occasionally focusing on the world outside of the office has the benefit of resting the eyes from the glare of the computer screen and may help employees refocus.

If your corporate lease is coming up for renewal, be sure to bear in mind the impact that light, space and design has, not only on the productivity of your talent, but on their wellbeing, positivity and happiness.

As we know, happy people make the best employees!


About Gary

While pursuing a BSC in Engineering, Gary cemented his love for the built environment, living and working abroad opened his eyes to the new directions that architecture and construction were taking. After gaining 28 years’ worth of international experience, Gary returned to SA in 2005 to join his father in the family business at ALW Estates, which, at the time, focused on the management of the company’s impressive property portfolio. Assuming the position of Director, Gary was responsible for consolidating the portfolio and specialised property technology management systems to streamline operations. Today, the business has grown to include multiple new development projects that have extended the company’s footprint well beyond its humble beginnings as a one-man construction company.