Most Plants Don't Thrive in the Dark (Your Employees Won't Either): A Guide to Office Lighting

May 31, 2019

Concept image of employees working in dim lighting conditions
Kip Soteres

Lighting in the workplace can affect employee productivity and help or hinder the longer term health of your workforce. The benefits of natural light are well-known and backed by good research, but there are alternatives when that isn't possible.

Lighting and Productivity

Lighting and productivity are deeply interdependent. A recent Forbes.com article lists many of the known adverse physical and mental affects of poor lighting, everything from eye strain and headaches, to fatigue, stress and anxiety that can accumulate to conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

80 percent of office workers say good lighting is important to them, while 40 percent report working with uncomfortable lighting every day. Dim lights can actually cause your employees to feel drowsy and work more slowly. That's not even accounting for the extra safety risks that poor lighting can exacerbate.

Best Practices for Lighting in the Workplace

Are your employees suffering needlessly under poor lighting conditions? Ensure that they don't by following these tips highlighting best practices for lighting in the workplace:

  1. Allow for individual desk lamps for local lighting. The best way to help employees manage their lighting is to give them more control over it. Paper documents require different illumination than working on a computer monitor. Glare and shadows can change throughout the day. Personal lighting makes it easier for people to manage their particular needs as their work interactions change.
  2. Light walls and ceilings, too. Lighting and productivity is about more than illuminating the narrow workspace. Better lighting on walls and ceilings makes workspaces seem bigger and create ambient light that helps minimize eyestrain
  3. Adjust ceiling lights as workspaces change. Trends like the move to open floorplans, or simple changes in workforce size can lead to reconfigurations of the work space. Unfortunately, while the desks, chairs and potentially even the walls move, often the ceiling lights do not. Whenever you change the work environment, do not forget the windows, curtains and ceiling lights as an important consideration.
  4. Demographics matter. Older employees often perform better at levels of lighting that are higher than the standard specifications. Individual desk lamps can help, but it's also worth considering the average age of your employees and perhaps adjusting accordingly.
  5. Don't let costs stop you. Focusing on improved lighting can also lead to enhancements that can reduce costs in ways that save money over the long term.
  6. Ask employees. As always, the best way to manage any environment hazards is to foster open communication with employees. Check in with them regularly to invite feedback, track complaints and feedback, and be ready to adjust. Ensure especially focused outreach at any time you introduce changes to the work environment that could affect your lighting.

The most common lighting and productivity issues are associated with too bright lights, glare, bad contrast and flicker. Be sure to consult with appropriate experts when accounting for lighting in the workplace that promotes productivity and health rather than hindering it.

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