Modern Office Design: The One Thing Employees Want Most

by Elizabeth Dukes on January 3, 2019

 In the war for top talent, many employers assume the way to win is to offer employees unique and trendy perks—arcade games in the breakroom, fully-stocked beer fridges and on-site dry cleaning services, to name a few. It’s a reasonable assumption since those are the kinds of fringe benefits mega-successful corporate giants like Google and Amazon provide.

However, there’s one simple element of modern office design that has a much greater effect on employee productivity and well-being: abundant natural light.

Why Natural Light Is Vital To Modern Office Design

In a survey conducted by HR advisory and research firm Future Workplace, employees in the U.S. and Canada reported access to (or the absence of) natural light and views of the outdoors had a major impact on the employee experience. Of the over 1,600 professionals interviewed …

  • More than half said natural light and views increases their commitment to the organization
  • Over 70 percent claim these elements improve their work performance and satisfaction levels
  • Nearly 80 percent report natural light and views of the outside positively influence their overall happiness and wellbeing

Conversely, a lack of natural light and views leads to a poor employee experience. Almost half of the survey respondents claim the absence of windows and/or natural lighting makes them “tired’ or “very tired,” while 43 percent say it makes them feel gloomy. And though technology has certainly made the lives of employees better in many respects, it’s also led to the need for a regular break from screens — something 73 percent of employees say they prefer to do by looking out a window.

The relationship between the presence of natural light and employee wellness is further supported by recent research conducted by Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. Professor Hedge found that in workplaces designed to maximize daylight exposure and improve indoor light quality, there was a considerable reduction in reports of eyestrain, blurred vision symptoms and headaches.

Unfortunately, over a third of the employees in Future Workplace’s survey feel they have insufficient natural light in their workplace.

How to Bring More Natural Light To Your Workplace

You may not be able to create a workplace where every employee gets to sit directly next to a window with a gorgeous view. But there are other ways to increase exposure to natural light and improve overall light quality in your office.

Here are five recommendations:

  1. If your office uses dedicated workstations, situate them within 20-25 feet of windows. (Daylight from side windows decreases substantially once you’re more than 25 feet away.)
  2. Install glass walls and doors for private offices to reduce light obstruction.
  3. Make sure any partitions or panels are made of translucent material and as short as possible to maintain privacy but still allow daylight to pass through.
  4. Put in smart blinds that automatically adjust based on the time of day so employees can enjoy natural light without fighting screen glare.
  5. Don’t use large bulky furniture as it can block light distribution. And make conscious decisions about the placement of office equipment.

In addition to adopting modern office design strategies to maximize natural light, use automated lighting schedules to mimic natural changes in daylight. Our minds and bodies evolved to respond to how light levels fluctuate throughout the day. And because traditional overhead lighting stays at the same intensity at all times, it disrupts our natural biological processes, which affects our mood and ability to concentrate.

Don’t waste time trying to figure out a way to budget for a gourmet cafeteria or on-site massage therapist. Instead, invest in a modern office design that supports a positive employee experience by letting the sunshine in.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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