Office lighting or any kind of lighting affects our moods, health, and productivity. We have all read or heard about Seasonal Affective Disorder or a certain depression that onsets in the winter months when days get shorter and there is reduced exposure to natural light or sunlight – this phenomenon also increases suicides in countries closer to the polar regions of Northern hemisphere as they experience almost 6 month long nights. We have all also read that a said “blue light” that is emitted from our devices such as laptops phones, and TVs ends up messing with our circadian cycles, leading to insomnia which further leads to other physiological problems as well as lifestyle diseases. And of course, anyone who is a frequent flier is no stranger to the strategic switching off and on of lights during the flight.
Why is Office Lighting Important?
Hence, it is more than imperative that we choose office lighting with a lot of thought and sensitivity and extend this thought to home office lighting as well in the post-Covid world when many have shifted to working from home, especially since most employees spend approximately 10-12 hours under office lights – making it a second home.
The right kind of office lighting increases attention to detail, keeps the employee awake, and one notices that there are far lesser mistakes, leading to increasingly error-free work. This move pays for itself over the long run as it reduces cases of depression and burnout, improves mood, and even cuts back on the need to use caffeine as a stimulant! Needless to say, a lot of workplaces globally are choosing to “see the light” and invest in good office lighting systems.
What is Office Lighting?
Office lighting is broadly divided into two things: The light fixtures that are used and the brightness levels of the lights used to illuminate a workspace.
Light has a temperature or “luminance” – the higher the luminance, the greater the temperature of the light. On the lower end of the spectrum is the yellow light which measures less than 3000 Kelvin (also called as warm light), in between is the white light (considered the best office light) measuring between 3000 to 5000 K, and on the highest side of the spectrum is blue light that measures greater than 5000 K.
Benefit from Natural Light
White light is considered to be the best office lighting as it mimics natural light or daylight – which is often missing from office spaces. Windowless offices, not very different from hospices, can benefit hugely from white office lighting as it increases productivity, energises, and wakes up employees, doing the job of natural light. Many times, there are huge windows to allow natural light in, but the angle interferes with the placement of the computers and hence, people tend to put blinds on windows and use white light. Exposure to natural light or one that mimics it forces people’s brains to function in alert mode.
Coloured Lights Should Not Be Used
Blue lights that are brighter and higher up on the luminescence scale, tend to reduce the sleep hormone or chemical called melatonin and can cause considerable fatigue when exposed for a fairly long time. This is the reason why our laptops and phones have a “reading mode” nowadays which is a less bright screen variant. If exposed to blue light, it becomes important to rest one’s eyes periodically. We often read that one must not bring devices into our bedrooms for the same reason as it interferes with our sleep cycle. Yellow light or low-frequency lights, on the other hand, tend to introduce a slight element of lethargy into the people exposed to it. White light is optimal as it is somewhat a mix of blue light creating an environment of high levels of alertness and yellow light which creates an environment of high levels of relaxation. Too much alertness can cause fatigue, increased blood pressure, and heart rates and even induce migraines in people who are photosensitive.
It should be illuminated according to the need
This is not to say that blue light or yellow lights have no place in office lighting. In fact, yellow light, which gives a vintage look and is relaxing to the people present, is optimal in areas of offices such as reception, kitchens, restaurants, meeting rooms meant for teambuilding activities, or other areas where people need to feel welcomed or comfortable. If one is a therapist for example, where the profession involves making people comfortable enough to open up, then yellow office lights should be your go-to. While blue light finds a space in areas that need to be extremely well-lit from a security point of view such as parking, stadiums, warehouses, or sports centres as all of these spaces require bright ceiling lights that require people to be extra alert.
The age of the workforce you have (older or younger) is also a major determining factor for what kind of office lighting one chooses. When the company employee pool is majorly made up of older people, the office lights must be brighter as they could benefit from a dose of energy, while if the organisation employs mostly a pool of younger people, a less bright light works as youth are naturally pumped up with high levels of energy.
What are Office Lighting Fixtures?
Yet another thing one must care about when choosing the right kind of office lighting is its placement. There is decorative office lighting – usually finding a place in recreational spaces at work, but care must be taken to ensure that these are not used in the main work area. Decorative lighting can have a strobe or flicker effect that can disturb employees trying to focus.
Ceiling lights are the best form of office lighting as they don’t induce glare and illuminate the office spaces well. Sometimes wall lighting fixtures are also used and these must be shielded to ensure that the light from such fixtures doesn’t clash with the employees’ eyes when they are trying to concentrate on writing, reading, discussing or using a laptop or computer.
There are also direct and indirect fixtures. Direct fixtures may find use in a workspace that requires attention to detail like over a dentist’s chair, while indirect fixtures that throw light over an area without overwhelming the person’s focus. Ceiling lights, while often a direct light fixture, don’t overwhelm you as no one really looks up and stares at the ceiling while working.
Which Products Should Be Used for Office Lighting?
Two kinds of office lighting occupy the major market share – Fluorescent and LEDs. While incandescent or fluorescent lights are cheaper than LED lights, LED lights have some major advantages over fluorescent. LEDs consume much less electricity making them highly energy efficient. They also have a longer life leading to fewer replacement costs – this is often convenient, especially in countries that have a higher labour cost and constant replacing of electric fittings would lead to increased expenses. Owing to the above reason, there is a trend in favour of the newer technology of LED lighting which is now slowly replacing the older fluorescent office lights but there is another major one.
It has been observed that people who work late in the evenings have disturbed sleep patterns as they go straight home and sleep after being exposed to white or blue lights. In contrast, it was seen that people who leave work early in the evenings and have a cooling off time at home tend to sleep better as their eyes, and hence brains get an opportunity to recover from work mode and get into sleep mode. Employees who don’t sleep well are unable to focus or bring in their best to work. Such observations have ensured that office management takes a good look at the kind of office lighting that serves the purpose of both employee health and workplace productivity.
And my personal favourite thing about LEDs is that they have the technology that their brightness can be adjusted and they can be dimmed. This means that the same office lights can be dimmed. Fluorescents don’t provide this option. In the evenings when everyone is wrapping up, to ensure that the fatigue from bright lights can be reduced as the day progresses, prepping the employees’ brains to go home and have a good refreshing sleep. This flexibility of switching between warmer and cooler lights also changes the mood of meeting rooms and halls according to the need. Are you having a town hall or a brainstorming session? Bring out the brighter lights! Is the next group doing a team meditation activity or does the HR need to have an employee grievance tête-à-tête? Switch it down at the flick of a button.
Not just office lighting, many people are choosing to bring this technology into their study rooms or workplaces at home in the form of table lamps that switch from yellow to white light and have a spectrum of settings from low brightness to high. Owing to this feature, LEDs are reflective of the new age work culture – flexible, requirement based and makes them the best kind of office lighting there is.