Here's an excerpt from my new book, Saving The World At Work:
Many employees spend their entire work life under artificial lights. This situation can affect their moods as well as their performance. A landmark 2003 study for the Environmental Protection Agency by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that natural light improves an employee's vision, function, and productivity, but most important, mood-it wards off depression and alleviates job stress.
In their book Cradle to Cradle, William McDonough and Michael Braungart talk about a new Herman Miller furniture factory that was redesigned with bigger windows and skylights, allowing sunshine to pour into the entire workspace. The employees' mood improved immediately, and so did productivity.
The factory managers noticed a side benefit as well: A number of workers who left for higher wages at a competitor's factory returned in a few weeks. Asked why, they told management they couldn't stand to work in the dark.
You can also make a difference with seating assignments. It's easy enough to move people around, especially in a cubicle environment, so that no employee has to work in 100 percent artificial light for more than a few months at a time.
No matter what your job title, you can effect change. At Aveda, an electrician came across a Web site featuring a new hybrid lighting system developed by Oak Ridge National Labs. Unlike solar power, which transforms sunshine into electricity, the hybrid system pulls sunlight into a rooftop dish and pipes it into the building, spraying it directly into a room while filtering out any harmful rays. The electrician, who was working in a windowless room at the time, thought it was an excellent idea and showed it to his boss, mechanical engineer Jim Gausman. Gausman decided the system would mesh naturally with Aveda's alternative-energy program, so he pitched it to CEO Dominique Conseil, who immediately gave it the green light.
NOTE: I just heard Bidwell Center founder Bill Strickland speak at the Conscious Capitalism conference. With regards to natural light he said, "The cure for spiritual cancer is natural light, fresh flowers and enthusiasm. People are a function of their natural surroundings. Put them in a building that feels like a prison, and they'll behave like prisoners!"
If you've never seen Bill Strickland give his famous slideshow presentation, watch it now! It will change your life and inspire you to help others reach their potential. (Bill Strickland at the TED Talks with Herbie Hancock)