How to improve the health of your employees with office lighting.

Posted: March 12, 2020   Category: Design Center

Is your office lighting hurting your employees? Most people spend a large portion of their day at work, typically seven to ten hours a day every week and often on weekends. We know that workplaces need to have the right furniture for comfort and efficiency, and properly circulated air for health and safety. But what about office lighting? An office should be well-lit, but does office lighting have anything to do with ergonomics?

The answer is a resounding yes; research has proven that the ergonomics of lighting – the relationship between the light source and the individual – has a significant effect on productivity. A properly lit office, with good quality office lighting, is actually proven to increase performance in the workplace.

How does office lighting affect mental and physical health?

The impact is greater than simply helping people see. Research has now proven that productivity, job satisfaction and overall health are substantially affected by the type and quality of light. The comparison below of good office lighting versus poor lighting shows you the difference.

Good office lighting helps:

  • Boost concentration
  • Increase productivity
  • Elevate mood and produce happier employees
  • Influence overall health
  • Prevent accidents

Poor lighting leads to:

  • Headaches and tiredness
  • Eye strain
  • Lack of focus
  • Mood disorders, such as S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder)
  • Safety hazards – misjudgment of the position, shape or speed of an object can lead to incidents and injury
  • Muscle strain as people compensate for poor vision by twisting or straining
  • CVS, or Computer Vision Syndrome, with symptoms such as headaches, neck pain, itchy eyes and blurred vision

What are the basic kinds of office lighting?

When we talk about office lighting, the topic covers more than just insufficient lighting.

Poor office lighting means conditions such as glare from computer screens or light coming in from windows, poorly distributed lighting that creates both bright and dark areas, and lighting in need of repair or replacement that flicker or make a buzzing sound. There are also various kinds of office lighting fixtures that control and distribute the light so that it is direct, indirect, or even shaded.

Let’s start with the three basic types of office lighting that make a difference in terms of getting office lighting right.

  1. General lighting such as ceiling fixtures that provide uniform lighting for large areas in the workplace.
  2. Localized-general lighting that light up specific areas of the workplace assigned to specific functions. This kind of lighting can vary, such as bright lighting in a kitchen area, or softer lighting at reception.
  3. Local or task lighting, which is exactly as it sounds. It increases light levels in specific locations, and in most instances, it can be controlled by the user according to their needs.

What can employers do to improve office lighting?

There is no “one size fits all”. No single type of light fixture is appropriate for every situation. Overly bright lighting can lead to eye strain the same way as not having not enough light can. Every workplace, and every workstation or task should be analyzed to determine which kind of fixture is most suitable.

For example, you may want more ambient lighting in a conference room, versus workstation lighting where employees may be doing paperwork such as reading or checking numbers. But in areas where computers are used, there is already a certain level of light from the screens. What is needed to complement the lighting? Or is the lighting in place causing glare on the screens? Now consider a reception area or staff lounge. Here is where you want the lighting warm and relaxed.

Recommendations for office lighting solutions

Ergonomic lighting from Humanscale® 

Given that lighting is considered one of the most important factors in office ergonomics, pause and look around. Take note of whether your team is adjusting or having to settle for mediocre lighting or subpar fixtures. There are various ways to improve office lighting for employee health. Consider the following:

  1. Natural light and mimicking natural light: Not all offices can be designed from the outset to incorporate natural light, but attention needs to be made to areas where light can be brought in from outside facing windows.

If you do have both natural and artificial lighting in the office, it is important to make sure that the sunlight from outside does not create direct glare. The glare can distract and hurt the employees’ eyes, and depending on the time of day, make them feel uncomfortably warm as well.

Another solution is to mimic outdoor light by paying attention to what is known as the colour temperature of the lighting used in such offices, especially bigger and wider office spaces, which should be between 5000K and 7000K, according to lighting experts.

  1. Seasonal difference in light and the colours of light: Workplaces located in northern climates are subject to the season when days are shorter, and sunlight is lower in the sky. Such lighting conditions have a direct impact on employees. Here is where winter office lighting can make a difference. Additional lighting, and a change to lighting that is a little brighter and warmer can make a big difference in mood as well as energy levels.
  2. Consider the colour of your office lighting: Related to the above, researchers now know that there is a difference between traditional white light in an office versus blue enriched white light. In one study, the blue enriched light showed improvements in moods, work performance, fatigue in the evening, irritability, ability to concentrate and focus, and eye strain. Employees even reported sleeping better at night!
  3. Avoid fluorescent lighting: Fluorescent lights are very bright and known to cause irritation to eyes and lead to headaches and migraines. Long-term exposure to blue-tinged fluorescent light all day is unhealthy. Most workplaces avoid them: Enough said!
  4. Wall colours and lighting: There’s nothing worse than beige walls and harsh lighting. One design trick is to use light, matte colors and paint finishes on walls. This reflects indirect lighting while reducing dark shadows and contrast.
  5. Consider overall office lighting atmosphere. It’s no surprise that workplaces that are properly lit also look better as soon as you walk into the space. This is the direct result of good interior design, which typically recommends a combination of indirect and direct lighting, and quality task lighting that individuals can control.

These days, there is a much wider choice available in stylish lighting systems and trendy task lighting that can add to the character of the workplace in addition to providing needed light.

Work with an expert in office lighting and lighting ergonomics

When it comes to businesses, office lighting is often overlooked. Those who originally set up and furnished the office space either undervalued its impact or forgot about it altogether. There may be tell-tale signs that employees are pushing back, such as bringing in their own task lighting for their workplace. But in many offices, this is not a possibility.

Given that least 80 percent of the information we absorb is through our sense of sight, it goes without saying that proper office lighting that enables employees to see properly without eyestrain, is critical.

Isn’t it time you called in an office partner such as The Office Shop for lighting solutions? The health and satisfaction of your employees is worth it!

Download this quick guide to ergonomic task lighting from Humanscale®

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