Natural light and digital wellbeing

A new study reported in the Harvard Business Review by Future Workplace suggests that the #1 office perk that employees want from their employers is natural light.

Based on a survey of 1614 North American workers, access to natural light and views of the outdoors is the top attribute of the workplace environment,  outranking more expensive options such as on-site childcare or fitness centres.

Displacement Theory

What does natural light have to do with digital wellbeing?  Digital screens are often best viewed indoors, or at least out of direct sunlight, which means that there is a potential tradeoff between screentime and natural light time. Given a fairly robust empirical link between exposure to natural light and psychological wellbeing (and physical wellness) both at home and at work, screentime may indirectly impact negatively on wellbeing by displacing natural light with screen light.  This is known as the Displacement Hypothesis, which is the leading model of how digital technology influences wellbeing.  This displacement hypothesis suggests that it is not so much that digital technology is inherently bad for our wellbeing, but that digital technology can displace (or replace) activities that enhance our wellbeing (e.g. natural light, face to face interactions, physical exercise etc).

The key implication for digital innovation, and WPP digital agencies such as SYZYGY, is that we should focus on delivering positive digital solutions that respect people’s time and that do not displace physical, environmental and social activities that enhance human wellbeing.

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.