Some technology companies let their employees work in a darkened office. In this scenario, their computer screen provides nearly the only source of light. It’s not a practice that’s widespread throughout the industry. In fact, the adverse effects of not enough light on their staff need to be considered by HR departments.
Let’s look more closely about the science behind working in an office with little to no light. Does the practice actually hamper productivity in the long run? Is requiring enough light a better approach? Here are a few insights to help inform your company’s decision.
The Adverse Effect of Darkness Upon the Brain
A recent study from Michigan State University analyzed the effects of the darkness on the brain. Researchers discovered rats used in the study suffered a 30% capacity loss in their hippocampuses. This is the region of the brain used for memory and cognitive function.
Needless to say, that’s a somewhat adverse effect on anyone working in technology. Conversely, the study also noted the opposite happened when the rats received a natural amount of light. Antonio Nunez, a psychology professor and co-investigator on the Michigan State study commented on their findings.
“Since there are fewer connections being made, this results in diminished learning and memory performance that is dependent upon the hippocampus. In other words, dim lights are producing dimwits,” commented Nunez.
These findings also make sense given the seasonal affective disorders that impact many people during winter. Simply put, less sunlight leads to decreased mental acuity.
The Right Lighting Helps Foster a Productive Office
Scientists also note the positive effects of sunlight on health and mental activity. A study from Northwestern University found that workers with a window in their office received nearly an hour more of sleep each night. Those without suffered from memory loss and shorter attention spans – not something you want among your programmers.
The study commented that providing enough daylight “may provide a profound way to improve office workers’ productivity and health, as well as the safety of the community they work and live in.”
In short, your company needs to provide an office space with a good supply of natural light. At a minimum, encourage your employees to take outside walking breaks, especially on sunny days.
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