Good lighting in an office setting is required for maximum comfort and productivity, and if lacking will have a negative effect on your employees’ health and productivity. The body will unconsciously compensate for poor lighting by assuming an unnatural position in order to see well, which can lead to back and neck pain, in addition to any number of other health issues associated with poor lighting, such as eyestrain, blurred vision and headaches.
Most of these health issues are caused by insufficient light, glare, flicker or poorly distributed light, but can easily be avoided or remedied by carefully planning the lighting situation in your office. Ideally, daylight is the most effective form of lighting you can provide for your employees; it has even been shown to improve quality of life. An open floor plan is ideal for providing daylight granted you have enough windows, but building architecture, changing seasons and the direction your windows face can curtail the amount of daylight you get, necessitating the installation of lighting fixtures.
So what is considered adequate lighting?
- One that provides sufficient, but not excessive, light which is coming from the right direction and will not cause obscuring shadows.
- One that provides good contrast between the task and the background.
- One that limits glare and extreme contrasts.
- Glare = what happens when a bright light source or reflection interfered with how you are ‘seeing’ an object. Your eyes will adapt to the brightest level of light, but then it becomes harder to see the details in the darker areas of the office.
- Reflected glare is caused by light reflected from shiny object, gass on picture framnes or windows at night, or monitors.
- Direct glare is caused by sunlight and bright light from poorly positioned light fixtures.
- One new way to reduce glare is by using microprosmatic optics: the material reduces luminance and glare by using a large number of prisms which are calculated to direct the light at the right angles to avoid glare
The amount and type of light needed will depend on the type of task being done, the type of surface the work is being done on and in the room (does it absorb or reflect light), the general work area and an individual’s vision. For example, the amount of light you need changes with age; a 60 year old needs 5 to 6 times as much light as a 20 year old.
There are 3 types of lighting which can be used:
- Provides uniform lighting through ceiling fixtures (build into the ceiling)
- Overhead (hanging) fixtures which increase the lighting levels for particular tasks (for example right above a desk)
- Individual lighting unit which will provide flexibility for each user so they can make their own adjustments.
- Will increase light levels over the work and immediate surroundings.
- Is more than about light fixtures: desaturated colors rflect light more than dark shades, so white or pale colors will make the room seem brighter.
In addition to that, you can also customize the types of light fixtures to be used:
Direct light fixtures:
- project 90 to 100 percent of their light downward toward the work area.
- tends to create shadows.
Direct – indirect light fixtures:
- distribute light equally upward and downward.
- reflect light off the ceiling and other room surfaces
- little light is emitted horizontally meaning direct glare is reduced.
- common in manufacturing
Indirect light fixtures:
- Distribute 90 to 100 percent of the light upward.
- The ceiling and upper walls must be clean and highly reflective to light the area below –> using desaturated colors such as white will automatically brighten a room
- Most even illumination and the least direct glare
- Common in office settings
Shielded light fixtures:
- Bulbs are covered from direct view by lenses, diffusers…
- Helps prevent glare and distributes light evenly
Your office furniture will have an impact an the lighting in your office (add Novalink information or examples); furniture will reflect between 25 and 45% of the light that falls on its surface. Adequate lighting is measured in LUX (= the amount of light falling on a surface) and is between 500 and 100 LUX for an office setting. For offices that use an open floor plan such as trading floors, the following mix of lighting are recommended:
Recessed ceiling lights:
- uncluttered and nice aesthetic
- distributes light nicely.
- great combination of direct and indirect light distribution.
- Light is reflected from the ceiling and adds to the ambiance of the room.
- Very easy to move desks around.
Individual task lights:
- Free standing lights are very flexible and have a low installation cost.
- Great option for ever changing office layouts
Your computer screen, as part of your furniture, still has a different impact on your lighting, and creates its own problems:
- A computer screen acts as its own source of light, but it can cause glare if the brightness is not adjusted propery.
- The monitor also acts as a mirror, where reflections cause more glare and force readers into awkward positions.
However, there are certain steps you can take with regards to your computer to improve lighting:
- Use a light background for your Desktop background
- Place the monitor parallel with overhead lights
- Angle the monitor away from lights and windows
- Make sure task lamps illuminate your documents and not your computer screen
- Instead of buying anti-glare screens, just adjust your lighting as that will not compromise the quality of the image
In conclusion, there are several ways to reduce eye discomfort in the workplace:
- Use filters to diffuse overhead lighting
- Dim overhead lights
- Use matte finishes on furniture, floors, walls…
- Cover windows with adjustable blinds
- ‘Stretch’ your eyes:
- Every few minutes look away from the screen for a few minutes
- focus your vision on distant objects
- Blink several times
Investing in good and energy efficient lighting will pay off in the long run. Not only will it reduce the risk of health problems, increase safety, enhance productivity and add to a comfortable, stimulating work environment; it will also save you energy and money. Lighting expenses consist for 20% in investment, 20% in maintenance and 60% in electricty! Investing in energy efficient lighting sources such as LED modules and T5 lamps.