Over the last year, in particular, mental health and wellness have become a greater concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on workers, with studies reporting higher levels of stress, anxiety and burnout and growing demand for employers to do more to support their workforce.

As companies prepare to return to the office and increasingly realize that the health and wellbeing of their employees is the best investment for their business, the building industry can play an important role: helping employers see office design in a new light. Architects, designers and specifiers can lead the transformation of functional workspaces into comfortable, engaging and inspiring environments that support mental wellbeing.


The Power of Light and Nature

Lighting is a powerful yet truly untapped tool for supporting one’s health and well-being in the workplace. It can have a big impact on the way we see, our comfort and our ability to perform tasks.

Most of us are spending approximately 90% of our time indoors and are missing the exposure to the appropriate amounts of natural daylight, as well as the colors and dynamics of nature. We often forget how important these elements are – they can affect our mood, energy levels, productivity and quality of sleep.

Exposure to natural light and darkness give our body clocks the essential time cues we need to stay in sync with the outside world and maintain physiological, mental and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, indoor lighting that can help recreate natural patterns and that allows building occupants to reap those benefits is vital.


Bringing the Benefits of Natural Light Indoors

While understanding the positive effects of natural light, the ultimate question for the building industry then becomes – how best to ensure it in an office design?

Luckily, lighting solutions are incorporating biophilic design principles to help with this. The basis of biophilic design is integrating elements of nature and natural analogues within interior spaces, reconnecting us with the outside world and stimulating that biological and emotional response, such as an energy boost or relaxed mindset. In the book Chief Wellbeing Officer, authors Rory Simpson and Steven P. MacGregor indicate that workers in offices with natural elements such as plants and sunlight report a 15% higher level of well-being and creativity and a 6% higher level of productivity. Similarly, it has been proven that biophilic environments reduce stress, anxiety and associated recovery time.

Inspired by the impact of nature on people, Signify – the world leader in lighting – has developed NatureConnect, an adaptive lighting solution that brings natural light and outdoor views in a fully immersive, indoor experience. The NatureConnect system combines various LED luminaires including an artificial skylight to create the impression of daylight coming in through an opening in the ceiling. This approach was found to have a calming effect and decrease heart rates. This solution also uses content and algorithms from nature to provide the right light tone at the right time of day.


The Time is Right  

This past year has shown us that we’re more aware of our mental health and wellbeing than ever before. As we prepare to return to the workplace, it is time for the building industry to help businesses reimagine their spaces in support of employee wellbeing.

The right indoor lighting can go a long way in this – it’s as fundamental to life as food, water and air. growing importance of designing workspaces with health and well-being in mind. Let’s collectively rethink office lighting design with health and wellbeing in mind. There is no time to delay.