Brighter workplace, happier employees

Phil Brown, European regulatory marketing manager for Pilkington UK, explains why glass and glazing sales teams should emphasise the wellbeing benefits the right windows can deliver.

As we become more conscious as a society of living healthier and happier lifestyles, the amount of natural light in the workplace – something that affects millions every day – is too often overlooked.

There is growing evidence that our workplaces significantly impact our happiness, wellbeing and productivity, and the amount of daylight present is a big factor in this. With this in mind, it’s clear wellbeing should also be high on the agenda of the industry’s sales teams.

Natural light helps to synchronise our sleep-wake cycle, helping us to stay alert during the day and to sleep at night.

Research published in 2018 by Cornell University Professor Dr Alan Hedge reinforces the connection of natural light and employee wellbeing.

The study found that the presence of natural light in an office significantly improves health and wellness among workers.

Workers in daylight office environments reported a 51% drop in the incidence of eyestrain, a 63% drop in the incidence of headaches, and a 56% reduction in drowsiness.

This underlines the vital importance of optimised natural lighting in making office buildings fit for purpose. With employee productivity and wellbeing climbing up many boardroom agendas, sharing this key message with customers is a valuable way the industry’s sales teams can demonstrate a deep understanding of their clients’ business priorities, building confidence in their role as consultant and advisor.

There is a strong body of research that supports the specific benefits of natural light in the workplace that professionals can draw upon to support the sales process. In a 2018 survey carried out in the USA by Future Workplace, an HR advisory and research firm, over half of the employees surveyed said natural light and views of the outdoors were their most important office perks. This places them above benefits such as onsite cafeterias, fitness centres, medical care and childcare.

In the study, 78% of employees asked said that access to natural light improves their wellbeing, while 70% also reported that natural light positively affects their work performance.

The same research also found that a lack of daylight and external views has a strong detrimental effect on the employee experience.

Over a third felt that they don’t get enough natural light in their workspace; 47% of employees admit they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light or a window at their office, and 43% report feeling gloomy because of the lack of it.

Despite the mounting evidence of the wide-ranging benefits, many thousands of workplaces across the UK remain very poorly optimised in terms of the amount of natural light reaching employees.

There is an onus on us in the glass and glazing industry to educate and inform our customers about the possibilities there are to improve end users’ quality of life by choosing the right glass and using it in the right way.

An excellent recent example of this is the new Slimming World headquarters in Alfreton, Derbyshire.

The company wanted to create a space for its people that showcased best practice in encouraging healthy working lives, and creating large, light-filled spaces through the extensive use of glass in the facade was a key part of achieving this.

Feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive, and the company has seen an uplift in morale following the opening of the new building.

And extensive glazing doesn’t need to come at the expense of high operating costs, thanks to the rapid advances that have been made in recent years in high-performance glass that helps keep heat in during the winter and also helps reduce overheating in summer.

With employers increasingly understanding the connection between employee wellbeing and productivity, promoting the health and happiness of workers is climbing the agenda for those responsible for commissioning our buildings.

Our industry’s sales professionals that lead these conversations and raise awareness of the benefits of natural light will undoubtedly see the positive impact and benefit to their businesses.