Recently I took on a new role in an office with smart windows that ‘automagically’ follow the sun and block out heat and glare – no blinds required. Coming into my new workplace, I was excited about a sunny, light filled place to work with a view of Monument Peak, one of the highest points in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Being a gadget freak, I was also excited about controlling the tint state of the windows with a handy iPhone app. And the idealist in me felt great about all the energy savings this technology enabled.
However, taking stock 90 days later, the five most important things I’ve noticed first hand from working in a smart window office are far deeper and personal.
I’ll pass on the coffee refill
My morning routine at every other job started with a fresh cup of coffee. I’ve been lucky to work in some big campuses with professional baristas and an unlimited free supply. But one cup always had a habit of turning into two, then three and even four before lunch time.
Since working at my new office with smart windows, I find I’m naturally more awake. The windows have a kind of technical voodoo to dose up the maximum amount of daylight. I’ll hit the road with a cup of coffee for the commute but I no longer feel the need to refill when I get to the office.
I find myself sleeping sounder at night – probably from less caffeine. But I suspect there’s more at play. For example, when you fly across continents they say maximize your time in natural daylight to avoid jet lag. Whatever it is, it’s working and I’m down to one dose of java a day.
I’ve always been one of those people who keep a secret stash of headache pills in a drawer. I’m not a chronic headache or migraine sufferer, but inevitably stress, busy schedules and eating lunch indoors at the desk have led me to consume that stash more frequently than I should.
At my new smart window office, I haven’t broken the seal of the bottle with the pills. I haven’t even tried to do without them. I just simply haven’t need them. I feel more clear headed.
Similarly, my eyes feel great. I do a lot of writing in close proximity to a computer screen but I can go for hours at my new job without feeling eye strain. This is a huge benefit as eyestrain is something that’s sometimes held me back from an important deadline at other jobs.
The thing is, because there’s always something interesting to look at out the windows, I take short breaks to observe. For example, snow recently capped Monument Peak – a rarity in the mild-climate of San Francisco Bay. I’d often take a short break from my screen work by taking a quick glance at the snow.
I shared my observation that I no longer get sore eyes to a co-worker who said eye strain happens when you focus on something close up. If you don’t take regular breaks to look away, your eye muscles and cornea tense up and cause eyestrain.
So that view of the mountain has been the best medicine for my eyes in a long time!
Again, I’ve worked for some big companies with extravagant heating and cooling systems but invariably there’s always a bunch of people complaining about how hot or cold it is. Yes, you know what I’m talking about – office thermal wars!
At my last job, the first thing I took from my boss’s office when he left was his fan. It got so hot in the summer and my cube was right on the perimeter next to the glass. There were days I’d be literally working up a sweat. Making matters worse, we did a lot of communication by videoconference. Because the fan was noisy I’d have to turn it off for most meetings and the perspiration would be visible to remote participants.
At my new office, there’s a consistent temperature – no surprises – and no “hot seat”.
This one’s a little harder to quantify, but I feel like I get more s### done in my new office. Perhaps it’s because I’m more awake, don’t have headaches or eyestrain and I’m not too hot or cold. But yeeeessss – I get more done. I can juggle meetings, have quiet time to think and write, and not feel like I’ve been living in a cave with blinds shut all day.
If you’ve never worked in an office with smart windows, I urge you to check it out. They are turning up in tech campuses, hospitals, airports and even homes. Forget nap pods, free food, foosball and office happy hours, I’d take optimized natural daylight any day.