Work Smarter//

3 Easy Ways to Get More Sun During the Workday

Here’s how to harness the sunlight for its mood- and productivity-boosting benefits, even if you’re sitting in an office all day.

Rawpixel / Shutterstock
Rawpixel / Shutterstock

Whether the summer‘s in full swing or the sun’s just peeking out on an otherwise chilly week, if you work full-time, you may not feel able to enjoy the full benefits of the sunshine. Spending 40+ hours a week in a stuffy, seasonless office under fluorescent lighting and frigid A/C can leave even the most indoorsy of us feeling restless, like we’re missing out on all the nice weather until the weekend. 

Exposure to daylight is a known mood-booster and plays an important role in regulating our circadian rhythm, or our sleep-wake cycle, and with the timing of sunrise and sunset varying from season to season, it’s natural to want to soak up the daylight whenever it’s there. But many workers feel sun-deprived: One report from The Workforce Institute and Kronos Incorporated found that as many as 39 percent of people with full-time jobs admit to having taken a “sick” day to instead enjoy the weather. 

But a day job doesn’t have to be devoid of daylight. Try mixing up your workday with these Thrive Microsteps for beating the slump and boosting your mood and performance, no matter the season.

Schedule time to go outside

You don’t have to set your busy workload aside to enjoy a change of scenery. Instead of booking a conference room per usual for an upcoming meeting, or a phone booth for a call, take it outside. Pick a short, quiet path for a walking meeting or a phone call. Your colleagues will appreciate the break from routine, and you may find that simply stepping out of your usual environment takes your conversations in new and exciting directions. When you return to your desk you’ll feel refreshed and ready to focus.

Take a lunchtime stroll, even if you brown-bagged your meal

Lunch is an ideal time to head out to grab a bite or a midday coffee or tea, but you don’t need to have a destination in mind — or even spend any money — to take advantage of this natural pause point in the workday. Even if you brought your lunch to the office or had an on-site team meal, pop outside for a short walk, or join some co-workers on their food run. Just 20-30 minutes outside, even in a city setting, has been found to lower our levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, according to one recent study from the University of Michigan in Frontiers in Psychology

Work near a window for creative inspiration

If you have a lot on your plate and can’t step away from your desk, “Try shifting the orientation of your desk to face the window, so you can look at nature,” Nevin Harper, Ph.D., professor at the University of Victoria and co-author of Nature-Based Therapy, suggests to Thrive. This simple seating change can increase your daylight exposure without even setting foot outside the office. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that employees who sat in proximity to a window were more physically active and slept longer, and reported higher quality sleep overall than those whose workstations were far from windows or in windowless offices.

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