A-Z of the future workplace:

Light

Studies indicate that higher productivity is the result of an increased amount of natural light. Whilst overhead lighting can cause fatigue, eye strain and headaches, there is a high correlation between the amount of natural light in an office and the efficiency of employees.

The recommended ratio of artificial light to natural light in an office is 1:5, as stated in European legislation; daylight is good for the vision and encourages a healthy immune system. People in offices exposed to a greater amount of natural light were shown to feel a higher level of satisfaction in their workplace, thanks to the variety and stimulation afforded by a view out of a window.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as ‘SAD’, is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern and is known to affect around 14% of adult workers. It is experienced in the autumn and winter months when there are less natural sunlight hours, as the lack of exposure to sunlight stops the hypothalamus part of the brain working properly, leading to a low mood and a lack of energy during the day. Whilst there is no direct cure for SAD, the symptoms can be reduced by getting as much natural light during the day as possible, which can definitely be improved by having a focus on the lighting in the office.

So, how can lighting be changed to affect productivity?

One way to improve your employees’ productivity is through utilising natural light, by making sure you have lots of windows in your building. A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that workers in offices with windows enjoyed 46 minutes per night more sleep than their counterparts in windowless offices. When completing a workplace study, or producing a workplace design, our designers will complete a sun path study, which involves them considering where the natural light will fall throughout the day, and where best to situate desks accordingly as a result.

Another factor to consider for employee productivity is the light temperature. This can be changed depending on the type / use of the room. Light temperature can be differentiated by higher colour temperatures (4,600K or more) which appear blue-white and are called cool or daylight colors, mid-range colour temperatures (3,100K–4,600K) appear cool white, and lower colour temperatures (up to 3,000K) range from red to yellowish-white in tone and are called warm colours. Generally, the best temperature lighting for the main office is high as it will make staff feel alert, thus improving their productivity. Break out areas should utilise low temperature, warm lighting to create a calm and relaxed atmosphere, and mid colour temperatures should be used in meeting rooms to feel welcoming but also keep people alert.

Smart lighting can improve productivity whilst also being an energy efficient solution. These LED lights mimic natural light, and are designed to support workers’ circadian rhythms, being adjusted to provide an energy boost at times when it naturally dips, such as mid-afternoon. Workers have control over these light settings and can override them to suit their needs. A study published in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics compared four lighting technologies - one fluorescent, and three LEDs. People working under LED lighting performed better on visual and cognitive tasks than those who worked under fluorescent lighting.

How to know what your lighting needs are

We completely understand that you may know that the light in your office doesn’t work for you, but maybe you’re not sure how to go about improving it. Here at Office Principles, we have a talented team of designers, with a breadth of knowledge regarding lighting and productivity in the workplace. Get in touch today to find out more.