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Remarkable Danish research: Office workers in dramatic lack of daylight at their desks

On average, office employees are exposed to just 10% of the light that hits outdoor workers, a Danish research team presented. This huge lack can affect their energy, circadian rhythm, and mental balances.

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Your office spaces leave you just 10% of the light you could get outside the building. Even in the summer months, office employees are facing a significant deficit for daylight compared to outdoor workers.

For many people employed in office spaces this tremendous lack of daylight and adequate light exposure frequently causes mental imbalances, fatigue, sadness, and bad mood in general.

"Indoor working people get very little daylight during their working hours. For much of the year, the light amount is so modest that it might influence their mental health," says professor Henrik Kolstad from Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University.

Supported by colleagues from the National Research Center for the Working Environment, the universities of Copenhagen and Aalborg, he published their study "Light Exposure during Days with Night, Outdoor, and Indoor Work" earlier this year.  


Three test groups

Inadequate or poor lighting can cause a range of ill-health effects, physical as well as mental, such as eye strain, headaches, fatigue and also stress and anxiety in more high-pressured work environments.

The interesting study confirms that indoor working people as a result of reduced daylight actually live in biological darkness, which adapts their eyes to the weaker amount of light.  


 



Lack of daylight and poor light exposure generally affect many office workers with
mental imbalances, fatigue, sadness, and bad mood. Photos: iStock

 


The Danish research team asked 560 test persons to spend a week carrying a wristwatch with a sensor measuring how much light hit the test subjects during the period. The sensor was able to detect rays at one-minute intervals.

The test persons included three equal groups of outdoor, indoor and night workers. The outdoor workers were mainly of artisans, gardeners, farmers and nursery teachers, the night workers primarily nurses and industrial workers.


Valuable knowledge

The amount of light or brightness measures in lux, where 100 lux corresponds to a very dark and cloudy day, while 10,000 lux is full daylight. The Danish study shows that indoor workers only receive 1,000 lux during daytime working hours in the summer and 400 lux during the winter.

In comparison, outdoor workers receive an average of 4-5,000 lux in the summer and 1000-2,000 lux in the winter corresponding to the amount of light used in the treatment of depression.


 



Your office spaces leave you just 10% of the light you could get outside the building.
Your mental well-being might benefit from moving the desk closer to window areas.

 


"Our study targets to create an overview of how much or how little light we receive during a workday depending on what we are doing. It is valuable knowledge because daylight is central to our mental well-being and health.

"We should all relate to this theme in particular architects, and building developers should take into consideration when constructing new homes or office buildings," Henrik Kolstad points out.


International resonance

Office workers´ energyFeature Articles, mood and circadian rhythm can be optimized if their office buildings are designed with more daylight as well as with dynamic LED light that shines more vigorously and bluish in the morning but slips into a reddish glow in the evening.

The Danish research has raised international resonance and interest because our exposure to light compared to our various professions has not previously been studied to the same scientific extent.

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