Handling Interior Workspace
August 14, 2013 7:31 AM   Subscribe

So, my workspace moved, and I now no longer have access to windows. What can I do to help me not feel disoriented at the end of the day?

I work in an office suite where I am the front-line person. My former workspace, while interior, at least let me look through other people's office windows to see what was going on outside (sunny? raining? sudden change? getting dark?).

My new space is even more interior and I have zero access to any windows unless I leave my desk, which I do fairly often but not as often as I would look up and out a window in my former workspace. When I leave at the end of the day, I am slightly dizzied and disoriented. The first week I moved here, I thought it was just getting used to the new space. But it's been ongoing for the past month now, and it's moving into the unacceptable range. My health is otherwise fine, and I am only next door to where I used to be in the same building, so there's no building issues that should be affecting me, and this does not occur at any other time during the day. I am accustomed to spending a lot of time outside -- especially in the summer when I commute by ferry. My apartment has windows in every exterior wall, etc., so not having any window access is new for me, and I really believe it is affecting me.

It will not be possible for me to gain access to windows any time soon, and it's not reasonable for me to get up from my desk every 15 minutes to walk to a window to see what's going on outside (before I would look up from my desk about 10-15 minutes and get up from it about once an hour for 10 minutes) --- in part because I would have to bother others to go look out a window and in part because I have work to do. But I also can't keep feeling dizzy and disoriented upon leaving work at 5 every day, either. It only lasts about 5-10 minutes, but I'd prefer it to not happen at all.

Workplace suggestions for dealing with this? I did find a previous question from 2008 about this, but thought after 5 years, another go around would be worth it. As this is a reception-like area and not a private office, I am limited in what I can have put up, and my desk is small, so I am also limited in what I can put on it, rendering many of the suggestions from the previous question unusable for me.
posted by zizzle to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have access to a nearby traffic cam or security cam where you can see what is going on outside via the internet?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:37 AM on August 14, 2013

Do you think it's the lack of natural sunlight, too much recycled air, boring all-institutional-grey walls, or the inability to monitor outdoor activity that affects you the most? Narrowing down the largest culprit might help you pinpoint the best solution.
posted by Liesl at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2013

Can you spend a few minutes looking out a window or the front door at the end of the day, before you actually leave? That might help re-orient you without forcing you to deal with leaving work / traveling home at the same time.
posted by Etrigan at 7:41 AM on August 14, 2013

I believe it's the lack of natural light, sun or rain or sleet or snow, and not seeing the slow progression of daylight to dark throughout the day in a natural manner.
posted by zizzle at 7:45 AM on August 14, 2013

Maybe some kind of computer screen brightness/color manager like f.lux could be configured to adjust gradually, throughout the course of the day? Wouldn't help with the weather, but it might be a start.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:49 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are a variety of video baby monitor-esque items out there. My parents somehow found one and ended up sending it to me. It looks like a normal digital picture frame (and works like one) until you turn on the video mode. There's a little wireless camera about the size of a cell phone on a stand that you could possibly stick in a coworker's window. This would let you at least have a little live glimpse whenever you wanted, or just keep it running, and to visitors, it'd just look like the back of a digital picture frame.

Another option, if you have a spare android device laying around (long shot, I know), you can get a free program called IP Webcam and set that up in a window, then watch through the browser on your computer, or another android device.
posted by HermitDog at 7:49 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you install programs on your computer to change the desktop based on the time of day? Here's one.

There are also daylight-balanced lamps with timers you can use to simulate different times of day.

I too have a windowless office, and keep a little "happy light" on my desk to make up for lost sunlight. But I don't find leaving the office disorienting.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:49 AM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Take a walk outside over lunch and for a 10 minute PM break if you get one - keeps your body clock updated, even if it's a small amount of time.
posted by Miko at 7:54 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I worked in a windowless basement office for about a year, and it definitely took some getting used to. I got my daylight fix and sense of the time of day when I'd step out of my oubliette to use the bathroom or refill my coffee. Apart from that I think I had 15 minute morning and afternoon breaks which gave me a little more time to see what was going on outside, even get outdoors and take a quick walk in clement weather. I know you said you're not able to leave your desk too often, but if you can strategically time quick breaks with key periods of the day (mid-day when the sun is highest, later afternoon, when the sun is on its way down) it might help.

I was also going to suggest F.lux and/or something like the Philips light that Admiral Haddock linked to; I'm not sure how it would be to use F.lux without windows, but I suspect that gradual shift in color temperature from daylight to whatever's in your office could be pretty effective. I've never used any of those 'Wake up' lights, but I'm guessing you'd have to program the sunset feature manually every day? It might be worth seeing if anyone's written an app for the Philips Hue system that automatically cycles the brightness/color of the bulb based on sunrise/sunset tables.
posted by usonian at 8:39 AM on August 14, 2013

I have an interior office and I have a natural light lamp that I use in addition to the florescent lights. This helps A LOT. I also do get up and look out the window periodically (it helps that a lot of our conference rooms have windows), maybe 2 or 3 times a day. Sometimes I'm still surprised when it's storming out, but for the most part this works for me.
posted by Kimberly at 11:02 AM on August 14, 2013

Can you replace the fluorescent light bulbs? Daylight bulbs are available in fluorescent bulb size. I use those. Also get a small desk fan to move the air.
posted by jmd97 at 12:18 AM on August 17, 2013


I clicked the resolved tag by mistake when I got the follow up email, but this has not been resolved.

And it's getting worse.
posted by zizzle at 1:23 PM on September 13, 2013

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