Workplace design is a thoughtful process that aims to maximize employee productivity, creativity, and overall wellness. While the ever-popular standing desk and wellness program can improve the health of some workers, proper lighting can be just as essential for enhancing the well-being of others. Without exposure to sunlight, some people’s brains don’t produce enough melatonin and serotonin. If not properly addressed, employees can develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), becoming less productive and creative as the winter months drag on.

SAD affects an estimated ten million Americans each year. According to a 2018 study by human resources consulting firm, Futureworks, “the absence of natural light and outdoor views hurts the employee experience. Over one-third of employees feel that they don’t get enough natural light in their workspace. Forty-seven percent of employees admit they feel tired or very tired from the absence of natural light, and 43% report feeling gloomy because of the lack of light.” In fact, more than one-third of employees lose as much as 60 minutes when their emotional wellness suffers, according to Future Workplace. The good news is that companies can design their workspaces to accommodate employees suffering from SAD.

Here are some examples:

Change Up the Lighting

By installing smart light bulbs, office lighting can help mimic the sunrise and sunset, helping maintain an employee’s circadian rhythm or sleep/wake cycle. With SAD, this cycle is disrupted, decreasing the neurotransmitters needed to stave off depression.

Bask in the Sunlight  

When the sun is out, allowing employees to take frequent breaks outside can help. Despite cold environments, getting outside for as little as 10 minutes makes a difference. Since natural light increases serotonin and dopamine, spending a few minutes in sunlight can positively affect a person’s mood. Another option, if it’s available, is to add a skylight or large windows to your office space, which can bring in sunlight and help increase the overall mood among staff.

Make Light Therapy Available

By offering lighting that doubles as a light therapy lamp, companies can support their employees’ mental health needs. Light therapy acts as artificial sunlight, changing the brain in just 30 minutes, two times a day.

The bottom line: SAD doesn’t have to hinder your employees’ performance. Paying attention to adequately and effectively lighting your space is well worth the investment. After all, happy employees are healthier, more productive, and increasingly creative.

So, let there be light!