Now more than ever, companies have been increasingly committed to providing a healthy workplace. While much of the focus over the years has been on posture and position, experts have come to realize that lighting plays a crucial role in a healthy and productive work environment.
Editors note: Updated for 2021.
Recently, a colleague shared a story about their first job experience as a temp at an insurance company. Every day, as the sun rose, he walked to his job in a windowless building with artificial lighting. He would leave at the end of the day, as the sun was setting, often without having seen the sun all day. At first, he gave it little thought – but the longer he worked at the company, the worse he felt. The dim lighting, and the strain from staring at his computer all day, started to affect his overall well-being. He had yet to realize it, but the lack of proper office lighting was taking its toll.
Workers spend on average 5 hours and 42 minutes at their desk each day.
Eight Ergonomic Lighting Tips
If your office space has a lack of natural light, you can still make some simple improvements.
Ergonomic Lighting Tips
Ergonomic office lighting can help improve your employees’ the quality of life, and in doing so promote their efficiency. Poor lighting has a host of negative side effects. These include, but are not limited to:
- Eye strain
- Headaches & Migraines
- Lower productivity
- Unhappy employees
- Difficulty in color matching
By making a few simple changes to your office space, you can avoid these negative side effects and create a happier workplace overall.
Step one: Determine the type of lighting you need.
Different spaces require different types of lighting for optimal efficiency.
- Direct Lighting is best used for individual workstations, as the light shines directly onto the subject. It creates shadows, so it’s best used as a supplemental source of lighting.
- Direct-Indirect Lighting is used in manufacturing, as it produces little glare. The light is emitted upwards and downwards. One key thing to note, however, is that it’s important that the walls, ceilings, and floor are all light-colored and reflective.
- Indirect light fixtures are most often used in office settings; they cast most light towards the ceiling. They create even illumination in the workspace and disperse the light in a more natural manner.
- Shielded light fixtures use different covers and lenses to filter and distribute the light over the workspace. They are found most often in office settings. You often see these as large boxed lights containing fluorescent lighting or as fixtures flush to the ceiling (see parabolic vs prismatic).
Step two: Evaluate your workspace using the following checklist.
- Is there any natural light? If so, is there sufficient natural light?
- Is there enough lighting to complete the task?
- Are the transition areas between light and dark areas infrequent?
- Do workers complain of visual strain?
- Is there significant glare anywhere in the workspace?
This task helps you determine how effective your current office lighting layout is, and whether it might benefit from more ergonomic choices. However, these questions are not fully comprehensive, and your office may benefit from a detailed light survey with technical equipment that measures illuminance, luminance, contrast, and reflectance.
Step three: Ensure that you don’t have a flicker problem.
You’re probably familiar with the flickering lights in horror movies, or the annoying flickering light in your bathroom, but flickering light can’t always be detected by the naked eye. Nevertheless, negative side effects from prolonged exposure to flickering lights can still arise. If your employees complain of eye strain and headaches, it may be an indication that your workplace has a flickering-light problem.
You can fix this in three easy steps:
- Upgrade to lighting with electronic ballasts.
- Ensure that all parts of the lights are working.
- Schedule bulb replacement on a regular basis.
Step four: Provide task lighting for all employees.
This one is fairly simple. Just provide lighting at each workstation that each employee can control on their own. This gives each employee control over how much light they need to complete their task, improves their mood and reduces eye strain.
Step five: Expose workers to natural light.
Make sure that employees get exposure to natural, full-spectrum light. If they are not seated within 8 feet of a window, encourage them to go outside periodically throughout the work day.
In a research poll of 1,614 North American employees, we found that access to natural light and views of the outdoors are the number one attribute of the workplace environment
The big question is, will paying attention to proper office lighting really affect the overall performance of your employees? A study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicates that 40% of U. S. workers experience fatigue, which carries with it a cost of approximately $136 billion in productivity (84% related to reduced performance at work). In many cases, fatigue can be directly related to poor lighting. When we compare the costs of implementing ergonomic office lighting to the costs of reduced productivity, it’s an easy choice.
Natural Light Filters
Change your workplace lighting and enjoy the benefits of beautiful natural light.
To return to my colleague’s work story, suffice it to say that he didn’t stay at that company for long. Though he continued to work in temp jobs that were largely indoors, he found that companies that spent the money to upgrade their facilities tended to have an overall better retention rate (and he and his coworkers had a much higher job satisfaction rate). In our view, 2021 is the year where businesses should dedicate themselves to rejecting old assumptions about what constitutes “proper” office lighting and focus instead on providing ergonomic office lighting.
It takes only five simple steps – identifying the lighting needed, evaluating the workspace, ensuring there is no flicker problem, ensuring each employee has access to task lighting and providing exposure to natural light – to set your business up with a more ergonomic environment. Doing so can reduce symptoms like eyestrain, headaches, lower productivity, fatigue, unhappy employees and damage, like difficulties with color matching.
Let’s be honest: when was the last time you gave any thought to your office lighting? I would guess that it wasn’t until you did a search for it. In 2021 and beyond, we have an opportunity to change our mindsets and improve our workplace for the better – and it can start with changing your lighting.