Workplace Design and Well-being

We enlist businesses as laboratories to test innovative ways to build and design spaces that nurture health and well-being. That is why our Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) team explores all the ways in which companies and employees can create environments that support worker well-being and productivity. This project examines how lighting can improve the working environment. It begins by acknowledging that workplace lighting is generally designed for optimal visual acuity at minimal energy and costs. However, recent studies have shown that new lighting systems using broad-spectrum bright lighting may offer many non-visual benefits too, such as enhanced worker well-being and productivity. 

Given that workers spend more than half of their waking hours at work, workplace lighting can make a substantial difference in overall worker health and well-being—especially in factories or offices without windows or exposure to full spectrum lighting, inadequate lighting overall, or during certain times of the year in northern latitudes when workers spend all of their daylight hours inside.

We are investigating the effects of exposure to LED blue-enriched white light during daytime hours in an office setting. Our study will take place during the darkest months of the year, in which workers will have little exposure to natural light, because their commutes to and from work will often take place in the dark. Previous studies similar in design indicated that workers exposed to blue-enriched white light improved alertness, positive mood, performance, evening fatigue, irritability, concentration, and eye discomfort. The same study found that daytime sleepiness was reduced and the quality of subjective nocturnal sleep was improved.

Owens Corning, a SHINE Member company, is working with SHINE to understand the benefits of blue-enriched white lighting in its new innovation space. It will compare outcomes between employees working in rooms lit with LED blue-enriched white light and employees working in an office space with standard white lighting. Through this study we hope to better understand the impact of lighting in the work environment.

This pilot study will test the impacts of the blue light on alertness, mood, injury prevention, sleep, and general health.

You can read our most recent paper on this topic: 

Turning the Mirror on the Architects: A Study of the Open-Plan Office and Work Behaviors at an Architectural Company
Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, Zhao Dong, Eileen McNeely

The results from our research show that working in the open-plan office limits the experience of privacy and intensifies the perception of intrusion among employees of an architectural company, mostly architects and designers.  Additionally, employees' perception of lack of privacy and high office density negatively affect job satisfaction, work engagement, and internal work relation as well as increases the number of limited ability days. Interestingly, the lack of privacy and high office density seem to positively affect expressive personal relations among coworkers and job performance. We find supporting evidence for mediation roles of negative emotions, that is, irritability and perception of fit into the workspace.  Read more about the study here