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In addition, a subset of the participants had actigraphy recordings to measure light exposure, activity, and sleep. A total of 21 participants had actigraphy recordings, including 10 office workers in windowless workplaces and 11 office workers in workplaces with windows. Participants were selected for actigraphy based on a convenience sample with volunteers from office locations with and without windows.
Workers with windows in the workplace reported better scores on vitality (A) and role limitation due to physical problems (B) on the SF-36 compared to workers with no windows in the workplace. * p < 0.05.
These health and performance consequences may affect perceived health related quality of life, as measured by the SF-36. Our results from the SF-36 show workplaces without windows have significantly negative impact on workers' role limitation due to physical problems (RP) and vitality (VT), as well as a marginal negative impact on workers' mental health compared to workplaces with windows. These results are similar to the findings of a study that examined five dimensions (GH, V, SF, RE, and MH) of the SF-36 and found that the scores of vitality (VT), social functioning (SF), and mental health (MH) for those working in dark offices are lower than scores for those working in offices with more lighting.33 Another study focusing on predictors of burnout among nurses found that exposure to at least three hours of daylight per day resulted in less stress and higher satisfaction at work.34 While those with more daylight in the workplace also have higher daily physical activity during work hours and workday evenings, our analysis cannot determine whether the workers get more activity because of the daylight or whether they have more daylight exposure due to activity. There was no difference in physical activity between the two groups during free days despite differences in light exposure during free days, and correlations between physical activity levels and light exposure during work hours, workday evenings, and free days did not suggest a strong relationship. Nonetheless, it remains a possibility that differences in activity level may influence light exposure and also sleep, yet the tendency towards higher activity levels indicates workers with more daylight exposure may have fewer physical problems or complaints regarding vitality in parallel with our findings on subjective measures of the SF-36.
Prior to this study, little was known about how architectural features such as windows impact light exposure and subsequent effects on physical and mental factors. Via examination of the influence of office settings with and without windows on office workers' light exposure, sleep, physical activity, and quality of life via actigraphy and subjective measures, this research study shows office workers in workplaces with windows may have more light exposure, better sleep quality, more physical activity, and higher quality of life ratings than office workers in work-places without windows.
This study has some limitations that could be addressed in future work. For example, the small sample size and sampling methodology could be addressed in a larger study. Participants for this study were volunteers based on a convenience sample, which may have introduced bias. The amount of light in an office may be associated with position or level of experience in the workplace; however, we found no differences in age, race, gender, years at current job, and duration of working in current light levels between workers in office settings with and without windows. We also do not have data from the participants on caffeine use, measurements of stress levels, and chronotype, which is of interest given the outcome measures of this study. Although we observed no differences in sleep onset time between the two groups of workers on workday nights and free day nights, the possibility remains that chronotype, circadian timing, or othe